Skip to main content

Full text of "Processed World"

See other formats



Digitized by tlie Internet Archive 
in 2010 




Issue 3I/5ummer-FaU 1993 155 M 0735-9351 

^ ~^^ ^t^H^^Y^^4~^ .. 4f "-^ :sr^^^^ ^ .^$ ^ 

^.^~ .^ 



Truant Heads 


Making Stoopid 

A Year in Espanola 

Fast Learner 

Fat Lot 0' Good 

High Cost of Sleep 


(■«ni« nu,t ftcarif IS 

ailiffr ()ij ^Uifinj ^ 

Ififr nl (nif (kj T^ofntc': Jnl) 

(if'linii (hj Qtrg pAdixt 

^Vn()()i(t. f'fttf<i<!nii. \~Kn<ili 

Distance No Obj ect itHion in^ of^in ?>:i.ji 

^o&\r\/ cR,,f,ff.i. f'flfifff, puiii- 

'T^tfiffij. OnfiffP, Puiiif). '^ffiijhinn 

Confessions of An Atheist Priest fff* oj loif i..j TTximsrc qinUxit 

Remaking A Public 


I Beg To Disagree 


Take Mo Chances 


KdicHf [)ij C'd/iis fViifssoii 

Cfiiifesnii, jlVigr 

(imiii ()ij yliilPc/i 

-HrJ-yl yii(i('(:in(ff(, V'ftiiuuJiK] (Inn ('offrgf 
^liotf -111. f.ii(( ^Jiiuff (lu l)m\ 

/(f'(ioii 1)11 P^iiiiiliin ^Umfif(<.' 

PW Collective.' Mickey D., Petra Leuze, JR5, Primitivo Morales. Larina, Zoe Noe, Chris Carisson, 
Richard Wool, Sarah Mor^i, Kwazee Wabbitt, Adam Cornford, D.S. Black, Iguar^a Mente. C.F. Christopher 

Other Contributors; Gloria Frym, Antler, Salvador Ferret, R.L. Tripp, Greg Evans, Ace Tyiene, Lalla Finecke, Blair 
Ewing, Doug Minkier, Tom Tomorrow, Ace Backwords, Angela Socage, Markus, Jennie, I.B. Nelson, Robert Matheny, 
Victor Change, Dolores Job, Rose Ray, the Office Mice and many others. . . 


lid no 

rial in l\i),nwd World rcnccn the views and fantaiics of the s| 

-ily those of other contributors, editors, or BACAT Pmrnstd World is a projerl of the Bay Area Outer for 

Art & Technology (BACAT) . a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation BACAT can be contacted at 109,5 Market 

Street. Suite 209. San Francisco. CA 94103, /"IV'or BACAT may be phoned at (41.5) 626-2979 or faxed at (415) 

626-2685 or c-mailed at us Pmtessrd World is collectively edited and nroduced. Nobody gets 

paid (except the printer, the post ofTice/UPS. the landlord, and the phone co). We welcome comments, letters 

and submissions (no originals!). Write us at 41 Sutter St. #1829, San Francisco. CA 94104. Procased World is 

indexed in the Alternative Press Index. 


The capitalist today, if lie wishes to 
remain one, must support the gov- 
ernment, and even lead the way, in 
giving the children whom he may one day 
need on the machines an education such 
as a hundred years ago very few children 
of manufacturers ever got. It goes against 
the grain with him, but he has no choice. 
Today, and still more this is true of the 
future, it is not the country which is most 
highly educated at the top, but the country 
which is most highly educated at the bottom 
that takes first place and decides the worth 
of the dollar. ("The Caretta," B. Traven, 
circa 1926) 

The crisis in education has become a sub- 
ject worthy of headlines, the op-ed page, and 
other "public" forums, typically with the lament 
that education's failures are the source of a 
steady decline in US industrial productivity. 
The failures are robbing the country of its 
competitive advantage. Worse yet, though un- 
stated, the cream of an admittedly faulty crop 
need new ways to rationalize their relative 
privilege. Excellence will be the standard, and 
economic progress the goal of a new educa- 
tional strategy. 

According to the National Commission on 
Excellence in Education report, A NATION AT 
RISK, "If an unfriendly foreign power had 
attempted to impose on America the mediocre 
educational performance that exists today, we 
might well have viewed it as an act of war.... 
We (sic) have, in effect, been committing an act 
of unthinking, unilateral educational disarma- 
ment." Businesses complain about the high cost 
of finding qualified entry-level personnel. Six 
out of ten PacBell applicants are rejected be- 
cause they can't pass a 7th-grade-level test; 
40% of BofA applicants fail tests requiring 
alphabetizing names and putting 5-digit num- 
bers in sequential order; Wells Fargo wanna- 
bes suffer a 50% failure rate on similarly 
mindless exams. These people literally won't 

A 1985 Bureau of Labor Statistics report 
finds that, even when high-tech industries are 

broadly defined, they "will account for only a 
small proportion of the new jobs through 1995." 
Opportunities abound for the custodian, cashier, 
secretary, kitchen helper, security guard, or door- 
keeper (in that order). Disregarding the calls for 
a higher degree of "schooling," low-paying, low- 
skill jobs keep growing. 

Despite deliberate efforts to de-skill the 
workplace, in part because it's easier to control 
fragmented servants who process information 
they'll never really understand, skilled labor is 
still required. Smart machines have needs, too. 
Each automated step forward demands a sup- 
port staff - although today much of the exper- 
tise comes from contracted technical support, 
payroll- service bureaus, independent tax consult- 
ants, etc. Generally self-employed or small-business 
employees, these workers are scattered and unable 
to cooperate, and are frequently trapped in techno- 
k>gicaliy obsolete fields. 

The experts agree: the failure of the schools 
threatens tiie nation's competitiveness and the 
USA's status as the richest country in history. In 
response to what A NATION AT RISK calls "a 
rising tide of medioaity," policy-makers propose 
the standard of "excellence" as the focal point of 
a comprehensive educational strategy devoted to 
the future of high-tech America. 

Education Is Their Business 

From the late 1830s through the 1840s, 
"common schools" were established to "shape 
character," in response to increasing urbaniza- 
tion and the demise of skilled craftsmen and 
self-sufficient farmers. Schooling was widely 
applied, although the female, slave, Indian, and 
tiie ghetto poor were usually not educated 
(might give 'em ideas). Even a casual look at 
the requirements for being a teacher (female, 
unwed, proper, etc.) shows that something 
more was expected than reading and writing. 

Between the 1890s and 1920s, schools 
smoothed the way for the development of more 
intensive bureauaatization. A new professional 
elite of "education executh/es," trained in the 
hierarchical organization techniques of scientific 
management and the edicts of business efficiency, 
reorganized the school to mirror the modem 
factory. High school also served as an institution 
to "Americanize" potentially "radical" immigrants. 

After World War II, the G.I. Bill made 
higher education possible for more people, and 
a multi-tiered system evolved: community col- 
leges for the minimally trained working class; 
large, state universities for future mid-level 
bureaucrats; and elite, private institutions for 
the progeny of the ruling class. A "knowledge 
race" with the USSR necessitated a vast out- 
pouring of federal funds for scientific R&D 
and a class of engineers and physical scientists, 
wedding the "multiversities" with the military- 
industrial complex. 

As the universities developed into centers 
of political dissent in the late '60s, interests 
such as the liberal Trilateral Commission cited 
the "crisis in democracy" as a cause for great 
alarm, and recommended, among other things, 
that business move away from utilizing the 
university for research purposes. The faculty 
and students were deemed unfriendly to the 
needs of the status quo. The threat of a capital 
"strike" encouraged reform in the profit-ori- 
ented universities. 

To maintain its economic viability, the uni- 
versity now leases and/or sells its resources - 
labs, computer centers, faculty - for corporate 
use. The trend is to render the campus more 
amenable to corporate partnerships and re- 
search contracting. Silicon Valley, Research 
Triangle, and Route 128 are models of private 
spin-offs of the universities, serving the inter- 
ests of high-tech industry. At the same time, 
policy-makers increasingly rely on private (i.e. 
corporate) think-tanks to mobilize public opin- 
ion and set long-term policy goals for the state. 
These institutions, not surprisingly, are the 
authorities behind most commissioned reports 
regarding educational reform. 

Reeling & Writhing, revisited 

As information replaces material wealth 
and traditional authority as the foundation of 
social power and status, the power of technoc- 
racy grows. In its educational form technoc- 
racy is meritocracy: a means of determining 
"value" based upon allegedly objective stand- 
ards such as testing, quantification, and ap- 
proved methods of abstraction. In response to 
demands for equal access to educational (and 
other) opportunities, "excellence" relegitimates 
meritocracy by asserting the fiction of value-neu- 
tral aiteria. 

As the attack on social equality moves 
ahead, and depoliticization reaches new ex- 
tremes, the ideology of "excellence" validates 
the increased power of the knowledge brokers. 
Technocracy by its nature cannot turn its world 
view over to public evaluation. "Excellence," a 
conveniently malleable standard (one of Clin- 
ton's catch phrases), grafts a dimension of 
quality onto an otherwise value-less perspec- 

The crisis in education, according to the 
managers of the latest fi'ontier, is caused by 
laxity, apathy, and a decline in respect for 
authority. Calls for excellence are mere at- 
tempts to bolster discipline and inculcate re- 
spect for those above you on the social ladder: 
the self-proclaimed self-achievers. 

To be less than excellent is to be mediocre, 
and a failure to society. Meritocracy declares 
that success or failure is in the hands of the 
individual, so you've only yourself to blame as 
you crash through the safety net. 


It should be no surprise that many high 
school graduates can't locate the US on the 
world map, or think the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence is a communist document. Prevent- 
ing such ignorance is not useful. But the values 
of gym teachers and Rhodes scholars (conform- 
ity, competition, coercion) are useful. 

The desire for a class of technically profi- 
cient idiots has been satisfied; the learned will 
try to convince you that buying and selling go 
back to the last ice age. From high office to 
low, not just a lack of knowledge, but a willful 
inability to think is a regular product of US 

Most of the pieces on education In this 
issue were created by such products; we think 
that we haven't totally failed in looking at this 
omnipresent institution. Mickey D. outlines his 
contempt for the school system in "Making 
Stoopld," and Dolores Job details her personal 
saga of Catholic-schoolgirl-turned-social<rltic 
in "Fat Lot of Good it Did Me." Our Southwest- 
ern correspondent Salvador Ferret checks in 
with a Journalistic tale of toil, which documents 
his experience teaching 6th grade in Espaflola, 
New Mexico. Chris Carlsson's "Remaking a 
Public" calls for a reanimated public life as a 
basis for a renewal and renaissance in educa- 

tion, while Lawrence Tripp's fiction "Fast 
Learner" explores some possibilities and prob- 
lems with augmented learning. 

Kwazee Wabbit looks at both graduate 
education and the "helping" profession in 
"Confessions of an Atheist Priest." In the 
"Downtime" section, "Scamming thru College" 
reveals a somewhat unusual attitude toward 
financing education, the wisdom of which is still 
the subject of criticism and scepticism at our 
collective meetings. "Downtime" also looks at 
Bank of America's recent attack on its employ- 
ees ("Wake Up and Smell the Tiers"), and an 
example of counter-bank activity in "BofA Infil- 

A new addition in this issue is a section on 
transportation; this time we have an unabashed 
call for bicycling ("I Love What You Do for Me"), 
a report/recruiting call from "Critical Mass" (a 
recent and recurrent action in the Bay Area to 
demonstrate bicycle presence), and an essay on 
America's latest do-it-yourself craze, car jack- 

The reviews section looks at topics ranging 
from "dumpster diving" to the victims of Lon- 
don's class war in the 18th century, not neglect- 
ing modern comics and the bigger issues of the 
Oil War(s). Greg Evan's "High Cost of Sleep" 

and Primitivo Morales' "Take No Chances" are 
dystopian fictions for our time, while Gloria 
Frym's short story "Distance No Object" ex- 
plores subtleties of the life of a former museum 
guard. Antler returns to our pages with "I Beg 
To Disagree," while other poetry explores top- 
ics ranging from grading papers to applying for 
the job. An extensive letters section rounds out 
the magazine. 

We want to hear what you think - please 
write us! We'd like to acknowledge all those 
people who produced material for this issue 
that wasn't used - we were swamped with many 
"excellent" articles and fiction pieces we had 
no room to publish. To all contributors, pub- 
lished or not, our thanks. 


41 Sutter Street #1829, 

San Francisco, CA 94104, USA 

Tel. 415-626-2979 

fax 415-626-2685 





Hey Processed World! 

I recently saw issue #30 at a bookstore 
and really liked it but I didn't have any money 
to buy it, but I took this envelope with the 
better low income deal — so here's my $10. 

I try to pay for my books and magazines 
whenever I can, but most times I can't. See, 
I'm one of those typical Latinos on welfare 
and $300 a month isn't much, especially 
when $220 goes to paying rent and utilities. 
And like most recipients of G.A., I get many 
essentials and luxuries by shoplifting — no 
sense in living like a worm if you don't have 
to. But the only shop that carries Processed 
World (in L.A.) is this small artsy/pretentious 
cafe/bookshop where they've got cameras 
and they watch you like hawks (it doesn't 
help that I look rather scruffy), making it 
impossible to get the goods. Thanks for hav- 
ing your low income deal. 

Ah, but one of these days those bastards 
will get theirs (while I get mine!). I really liked 
your comics on the Martian perspective on 
Looting! You probably got all those bullshit 
media stories up there in S.F. about the riots 
but the truth was very different. Not only 
were people getting much needed (and 
maybe some not-so-necessary) stuff, they 
were also having fun — there was an incred- 
ible spirit of celebration. They kept saying 
that we were burning our own communities 
but nobody feels that the stores belong to 
them. It's just a store managed by the owner 
in the business of taking what little we have. 
They owe us. They owe us more than what 
we can get in a few days of looting. And I 
doubt that they will ever be able to pay us 
back for all the damage they've done with 
their ugly stores. Nobody wants them, no- 
body wants to pay for the objects they house, 
and nobody wants to work in them either. 
They can shove their "Rebuild L.A." plans, 
I'm not interested in helping business return 
to normality. I'd rather be playing tag with 
my neighbors, reading a book, sleeping in 
the park, or eating some tamales. Anything 
other than contributing to the things that 
make me miserable. 

So how was your day? 

"El Chavo" — Los Angeles, CA 


Dear Processed People: 

Someone gave me a copy of PW# 30 and 
I was really impressed. I hadn't known it was 
possible to be so alienated and so smug at 
the same time! Perhaps it goes with being 

well-fed and adequately housed, but still 
feeling somehow oppressed, in a world 
where most people would kill for your living 
standards OR your jobs. 

I particularly like the way you insult or put 
down anyone who believes they are making 
positive changes or leading productive lives 
(i.e. environmentalists, anyone who doesn't 
hate their job). Actually, the book/comix 
reviews and the "Ravin" poem were pretty 
good. The rest of your magazine would make 
a colloquium of Marxist intellectuals seem 
interesting by comparison. Keep up the good 


D.S. — San Francisco 



This morning, I called a friend at her office 
from my office. When she answered with her 
customary "may I help you?", I said well, I 
don't know — I seem to be trapped in a small 
room, utterly without character or color, 
crammed full of electronic equipment, and 
elderly white men in business suits come in 
periodically and force me to enact seemingly 
meaningless manual rituals over and over. 
She asked me if this were a marriage con- 
tract, since it sounded to her like a descrip- 
tion of marital fucking. I said no, but upon 
reflection I'm not so sure. 

Making the best products or delivering the 
best services has very little to do with the 
bottom line of American business, and any- 
one who's ever spent more than two days 
working for wages in this great land of ours 
knows it. If Profit were truly Cod, and a 
ruthless efficiency reigned everywhere, then 
at least we workers would know where we 

But as someone who has searched for the 
power source of American commerce while 
laboring in the belly of the beast, I have 
trodden some very slimy paths on my way to 
the conclusion that in the American business 
world all exits lead, ultimately, not to the 
bank vault but to a vast, collective cloaca — 
tastefully decorated and well situated, per- 
haps, but still where the smelly excretions 
come out. 

The need to come and/or shit all over its 
constituent parts is a hallmark of American 
business. And since, to paraphrase a famous 
capitalist, the religion of America is business, 
I think we must look at these eliminative 
functions in the same terms as their 
sexuo/scatologically obsessed Christian 

counterparts — not as part of a healthy purg- 
ing process but as a means of shaming, 
degrading, ultimately drowning its victims. 

Why? After long thought, I believe be- 
cause of the need for vengeance — the re- 
venge of the reviled "smart kids" against the 
class bullies. School system success among 
children themselves, as we all well know, is 
based almost entirely upon physical attrib- 
utes. (Civen the world they live in, how 
should kids judge one another — on moral 
character?) At the same time, the shallowness 
of view foisted upon kids by capitalist con- 
sumerism is incapable of allaying the fear 
engendered by the threat of others' intelli- 
gence — fear of the magical ability to look at 
a page of printed matter and see a reflection 
of the larger world. (For a further discussion 
of these views I highly recommend a book 
from the 1970s by Cobb and Sennett called 
The Hidden Injuries of Class — one of the few 
sociology books ever written that's worth the 
paper it's printed on.) 

As we "grow up," smart kids start to get a 
handle on their power — and one of the few 
real definitions of power available in a capi- 
talist consumer paradigm is the ability to 
make other people suffer by denying them 
the necessities of life while avoiding suffering 
oneself. Having power means one is able to 
create a net of lies including only other 
"smart kids" in which one's job takes on an 
importance, an indispensability; work be- 
comes a place where one's opinions are 
listened to. In short, smart kids grow up to 
manufacture respect, the one necessity for 
living that none of us, however lucky, re- 
ceived from the larger world as children. 

How many of your bosses have been 
scrawny, creepy little guys with funny 
names? Lots, I'll bet. And any reasonably 
aware individual walking down a corridor 
can almost palpate the fear pouring out of the 
rows of their well-appointed offices. This fear 
requires endless defenses. How to keep the 
hired muscle from turning on you? By incul- 
cating the appropriate self-loathing and de- 
pendence through denial of respect. Make 
them afraid they're not smart enough, not 
good enough to live without you, and so 
generate more repressed anger in the work- 
ers, leading to more reason for fear and thus 
more defensive behavior. And so the cycle 

At the risk of marking myself as an old 
hippie, I still love the passage from Lord of 
the Rings where Candalf says that all hope 
lies in the fact that while the Dark Lord is 


unassailably prepared for any frontal assault 
designed to seize his throne, the thought that 
our real objective is to cast him down and 
have no one in his place never muddies his 
darkest dreams. In this colorful period when 
the only difference between communism and 
capitalism is that capitalism's corpse is still 
farting, will those of us who will neither 
submit to the revenge of the nerds nor use 
our brainpower to subjugate the thoughtless 
be able to withstand the hatred of those 
whose every breath is propelled by the fear 
that we would, if we could, become them? 

Stay tuned. 

— B.H. Cubbage, San Francisco 


PW, howdy— 

I've seen yer biotech issue #28. Several 
real good articles, particularly the one by 
Tom Athanasiou re Creenwashing. I liked the 
issue's overall tone: stick to your guns, with- 
out askin' everyone else to lay down theirs. 
Someday I'd like to get it together enough to 
respond in kind to some of the key points you 
raise, e.g., "abundance," from my own more 
to the woods point of view. 

— D.K., Leeport, PA 


Dear PW: 

When I received my hiring letter from The 
Firm I was elated. This was exactly the place 
I had wanted to work, in the city I wanted to 
work in, doing the work I wanted to do. How 
could I have been more fortunate? 

The first day mounds of paperwork and 
manuals were piled before us. (It took me six 
months to finally sift through it all.) We 
received our complimentary Digital Voice 
Exchange (DVX) passwords. We were told 
that we were now official Creen Beans. 

The Office consisted of sterile, nearly 
empty rooms with glass walls (with a spec- 
tacular view of the earthquake-closed Bay 
Bridge) that had to be scheduled daily by 
project managers. Someone described the 
building's 13-foot sway, complete with top- 
pling bookcases and air-borne typewriters. 
Ugly modern "art" adorned gleaming hospi- 
tal-white walls. Bluish direct overhead light- 
ing cast shadows over eyes and illuminated 
jaundiced complexions. Creen Beans occu- 

pied clusters of privacy-free generic gray 

Week 1 (they number their weeks) we 
spent learning the culcha and his-story of The 
Firm. The managing partner took my Start 
Croup of Creen Beans out to lunch. At our 
forthcoming programming course, he ex- 
plained, "it doesn't matter if they teach you 
how to do oral sex" instead of COBOL pro- 
gramming. The idea was that we imbibe The 
Firm's culcha. I couldn't wait to learn more 
about Firm oral sex. This was my kinda 

Weeks 2-3 were designed to teach the 
non-programmer how to program. We wrote 
our first simple, useless COBOL report pro- 
gram. I hunted for a letter opener to use in 
order to pry up my finger nails to stay awake. 
My Start Croup was fairly diverse — two 
women, two Chinese, one Filipino, and one 
queer white boy, and I noticed that there 
were even three black employees among 
375: the secretaries. 

Weeks 4-6 were spent at The Firm training 
facility, The Center For Professional Educa- 
tion, in nowhere's ville Midwest in the dead 
of winter. At first, the hours of 8 am to 10 pm 


seven days a week seemed a bit excessive. 
Nothing that couldn't be mitigated, how- 
ever, by chain-drinking coffee and nightly 
alcohol poisoning at the Social Center. No 
one else ever left the hermetically sealed 
corporate-sphere, which was a "sick build- 
ing" health-wise and ideologically. It be- 
came my duty to urinate on the sculptures of 
corporate yuppies in corporate drag outside 
the Social Center. 

The ones I related to well were the Black 
and Hispanic maintenance and housekeep- 
ing staff. I vaguely recall schmoozing with the 
maids, Josepha and Julietta (Hoe-Seffuh and 
Who-Lee-Etta), in a drunken stupor. I, a 
fellow Green Bean, and the black janitor 
enjoyed polio weed in his ancient Buick 
Riviera in subzero temperatures. 

Several of my fellow Green Beans were 
from the Johannesburg office. Phil was a 
studly bearded dude, who was a former 
South African police officer. He was "proud" 
to have "defended" the whites during riots. I 
wanted to "punish" him in the worst way. 
Michael was just the opposite: a black dem- 
onstrator who participated in numerous anti- 
apartheid marches. Suling was the most 
interesting, Chinese with a thick Scottish 
accent due to her Glasgow upbringing. Her 
friend Scott had taken the job on a bet that 
he wouldn't make it. Everything to them was 
"bloody" as we downed many an ale at the 
tavern Scotland Yard with the London office 

We also performed the powhitetrash ac- 
tivity of bowling in Elgin, swilling a pitcher 
each per game. The South Africans sang 
drinking songs in Afrikaans on the school bus 
ride home. During the weekend excursion 
into The Windy City I ditched everyone at 
Kingston Mines and went cruising the Touche 
gay leather bar. 

Somewhere in between caffeine and 
booze we were programmed to create iden- 
tical batch and on-line COBOL programs, 
and became interchangeable ball bearings. 
Later, I learned that the facilitator had com- 
mitted suicide. 

Back at The Office, my co-workers 
needed additional education. I invited a 
flaming queen to the dinner-cruise-on-the- 
Bay. They stared, utterly speechless, as he 
screamed his love for Garland, Davis, et al., 
at the dinner table. I danced and had my 
picture taken with another "brother" at the 
annual dinner dance. Despite The Firm's 
homophobic exterior, many of their clients 
were screaming nells — the most enjoyable to 
work with. 

As "Captain Admin" of The Project — 
meaning data entry of time sheets and field- 
ing complaints — I was assigned to "cube" 
#1E050C— Hist Floor, (EJast Wing, Section 
[050], Cubicle [C] — in businessparkfrom- 
hell. Eachof the four wings was 1/4 mile long 
extending from the center of the Mother Ship. 
Walkways extended to the vanishing point 
and robot mail carts blared "EX-CUSE-ME- 
EX-CUSE-ME" when blocked. I particularly 

enjoyed sending global e-mail informing all 
personnel that the network was about to be 
brought down the instant I logged off, barely 
giving them time to save their voluminous, 
useless design documentation. I learned also 
to leave cryptic notes on the white board in 
my "cube" so that nobody could find me 
when I took extended coffee breaks and long 
walks with vicious black swans around the 
fake business park lagoon that existed to cool 
the hermetically sealed mother ship. On my 
six-month review, the fact that I had worn an 
earring for an hour was quite a prominent 
black mark against my kharakteristika. 

You know one you know 'em all. The 
"boys" DVX-ed each other to plan the first 
dinner reception for employees of the laven- 
der persuasion. Needless to say when the 
flyers hit the mail folders the shit hit the fan. 
"The Psychotic Boss-Monster From Hell" ac- 
cused us of trying to start a sexual liaison 
ring — he didn't believe in "fraternizing" (de- 
spite the staff Golf and Baseball clubs) be- 
cause if this forbidden activity took place "the 
new staff would be cluster fucking in the halls 
of the clients." His second in command, an 
ex-marine from Wawatosa, Wisconsin, told 
me that the worst thing I could do was to 
"embarrass my supervisor." 

After I was "rolled off" (just who was on 
top?) of The Project, I was assigned to work 
around the clock, all weekend long, on The 
Project Proposal. Most of the useless, ridicu- 
lous MacDraw doodles I was ordered to 
create from hand-drawn scrawl were thrown 
out and not used in the final draft. My 
muscle-pecs jarhead supervisor got pissed 
when I slipped out at 1:30 am due to my 
cough and sore throat. I immediately began 
updating my resume on company time, on 
company computers, on company xerox ma- 
chines, on company paper, of course. 

Six months after I left The Firm I went into 
The Office after bar time with fellow Green 
Beans from the London office. I filled the 
white boards in the private offices and con- 
ference rooms with "UNLEASH THE 
QUEEN!!" while one of them made multiple 
personal calls to London on the unrestricted 
fax machine line. 

— Anonymous, San Francisco 


Dear P.W. people, 

I just got your latest issue. Not only did it 
have the usual slap-upside-the-eyelids effect, 
but it knocked loose an urge/manifesto/pos- 
sible issue topic. Let me try to wrestle it into 

We can crawl out of our ruts. (We know 
that. Say it again.) The less we partake of the 
rat-race, the smaller the race becomes. Yeah, 
there are some things the System appears to 
have a monopoly on, though housing is the 
only one that withstands a serious fight — 
food, clothing, entertainment we can make 
for ourselves if we can spare the energy. OK, 
perhaps you can't go 100% cash-free on 
these things, but it seems to me like you 

could make a hell of a reduction of their cash 
cost. Trade with people you know for services 
and goods, only buying when no one near 
creates. What you get are stronger commu- 
nity, people doing work they're proud of, 
and freedom from the hamster-wheel. What 
you give up is Convenience (i.e., the right to 
remain asleep at the wheel). It sure seems 
worth it. 

This is a screed, not a critique. I'm starting 
my third "Mental Health Month" and am 
shocked to realize life does not end when 
you don't pursue a career. In this new frame 
of mind, your cartoon "Their real jobs are..." 
(p. 79, PW 30) raised the question of what's 
really worth doing. 

So I pose this question, yearning for a 
whole issue on it: "What can we do to get 
ourselves out of the rat-race, in whole or in 
more realistic part?" Stop buying consumer 
items, or think of them in terms of indentured 
servitude ("2 hours a night x $7.00/hr. di- 
vided by $400.00 = Is that camcorder worth 
30 nights of labor?"). How far can you really 
get growing food? Trading roles? I would love 
to have hand-made clothes; I'd be tickled 
pink to pay for them with, say, yardwork or 
tutoring. What are other people doing? 

—j.B.P— Seattle, WA 



We all know that the existing institutions 
are rotten. Capitalism, white supremacy, pa- 
triarchy, the state — you name it. But what 
alternatives have we proposed? Not many. 

I think this is a big problem. It means that 
activists are struggling day to day with only 
vague ideas about the kind of society we're 
fighting for, or how to bring it about. It means 
it's easy for us to re-create, in our own 
organizations, the very evils we're fighting 
against. It also means we have a hard time 
convincing other folks to join us. If major 
social change is going to happen, we'll need 
some fairly specific ideas about what to 
change to, expressed in a way that lots of 
non-activists can relate to. But proposing 
alternative institutions is hard to do - much 
harder than criticizing what exists now. How 
do we do it? 

There are people who suspect the very 
idea of envisioning something better. I mean 
proposals about the kind of society we want 
to live in, the kind of society that's worth 
struggling for. (Actually, "vision" may not be 
the right word, because it has connotations 
of something mystical and impractical.) 

It's about proposing ideas, not imposing 
them. It's about ideas emerging from a proc- 
ess of democratic dialogue. And that is ex- 
actly the spirit in which I am proposing these 
ideas on how to think about vision. In noway 
do I think I've got it all figured out. THIS IS 
WANT YOU TO FOLLOW. Let's start a dia- 
logue on how we can all get better at thinking 
about vision. Examine and criticize these 
ideas and then propose your own. Nor is it 


about predicting the future, it's about naming 
and communicating your desires, changing 
that part of the future that's within your 
control and preparing to cope with that part 
that's out of your control. It's not about 
producing a fixed blueprint, or a plan. It's 
about an ongoing planning process. The 
plans that come out are only for the purposes 
of documenting where the process stands at 
a particular moment. The process is about 
changing the actions you take now, and 
about the human development of everybody 

Finally, it's not about pointless fantasiz- 
ing, disconnected from action. It's about 
expressing the ideals that guide action. I 
would argue that any action towards social 
change is guided by some ideals of a better 
society. Most of the time, these ideals are not 
stated, so they can't be examined and de- 
bated. I think it's very useful to make these 
ideals explicit. We should specify present 
desires, not predict future outcomes. 

You don't have to say how this desired 
future would come about, or even argue that 
it is possible to bring it about. There is no 
requirement that it be implementable. As- 
sume magic. This will help you get clear 
about what you really want. One of the 
biggest obstacles to creativity is letting imple- 
mentation issues constrain your desires and 
your imagination. 

You do have to explain how it would 
work, and how it would maintain itself if it 
did exist. No magic here. It has to be tech- 
nologically, ecologically, and humanly fea- 
sible (for example, it can't require saints, but 
you can allow for people's potential to be 
better than they are today). It has to be 
capable of sustaining itself over time. It has 
to be specific enough to be reasonably ar- 
gued with. It must be quickly and easily 
adaptable (this helps to avoid the fixed blue- 
print problem). Finally, it should be inspiring 
because if you're not excited about it, then 
something went wrong. 

Here is a set of steps for getting started: 

D Define the issue you're working on 

D Define your criteria 

D Define the components of what you're 

D Identify the existing alternatives 

D Evaluate the existing alternatives 
against the criteria 

D Design new alternatives which would 
meet the criteria better 

D Think about how your design relates to 
other areas 

D Get comments from people, incorpo- 
rate new ideas 

The opposition in this country is suffering 
from a vast failure of the imagination. We 
know what we're against, but we're not 
nearly so clear about what we're for. It's time 
for us to figure it out — all of us, not just a 
few brilliant individuals. Of course, develop- 
ing a new vision of a better society will not 
guarantee the changes we want. But I am 

convinced that these changes cannot and 
will not happen without such a vision. 
— D.S., San Francisco 



I remember reading a brief description of 
Processed World in a book called TechnoCul- 
ture, but I've never seen a copy. Is distribu- 
tion limited to the Bay Area? [See page 64 for 
list of distributors/cities. J I'd love to get my 
hands on some of your work if you have 
electronic versions you could send me. 
[Nope, still confined to real magazines — ed.] 

As my introduction said, I'm fresh out of 
school with most of my youthful idealism 
intact. Unfortunately my job search has 
forced me to realize what an isolated envi- 
ronment I am coming from, having studied 
and worked in a University for so long. In a 
lot of ways I am lucky, though, because of 
my degree (computer engineering). Even if 
I'm not seeing the ideal work environments 
I was hoping for, at least the recruiters I am 
talking to are happy to see me and are 
looking to hire. Of all the people I know who 
live in the City right now, none of them are 
receiving their incomes from jobs that have 
anything to do with their majors. The best 
they can hope for is being hired as an intern 

My girlfriend (Feminist Theory/Macy's 
Saleswoman) and her roommates (Rus- 
sian/Macy's Saleswoman and Art Stu- 
dio/Temp Worker) are all busting their asses 
to get shitworker jobs where they can watch 
others doing what they hope to do someday 
"just to get a foot in the door." I have to feel 
kinda ashamed every time I start getting 
down — at least there's people who want to 
pay me for what I like to do. 

There was an interesting column in a 
recent Maximum Rock'n'Roll in which Larry 
Livermore argued that the "antiwork" activ- 
ists are mostly just white, middle-class kids 
(describes me also) who are acting out their 
rebellion until they land their cushy jobs in 
their Dads' businesses. Your opinion and 
maybe a brief description of the people who 
write for Processed World would be very 
interesting, [maybe next time? — it would be 
interesting! — ed.] 

— M.S., e-mail 


Dear Processed World: 

When I received my Ph.D. in physics a 
few years ago, I discovered that defense-re- 
lated companies and labs dominated the job 
market, particularly in my subfield. I ended 
up working for a company 90% of whose 
business (slightly less now) is connected to 







UfA I FoR&ET HOW 00 



MINt>-HVMBlN6 lABoa: ALLE^i 


Graphic: Tom Tomorrow 


testing nuclear weapons (we call them "de- 

Today the company is going downhill 
quickly — cutting about 20% per year — as we 
become part of the "peace dividend." It's 
nice that we don't need as much in the way 
of weapons these days, but it's too bad that 
our company's managers are doing effec- 
tively nothing to develop products (goods or 
services) useful for the civilian market. The 
company has a large number of decent engi- 
neers, physicists, computer people who 
could do something useful, but the manage- 
ment seems to feel it's just easier not to. 

I think their plan, conscious or otherwise, 
is to maintain, as nearly as possible, our total 
"fee" (budget) from the US Dept. of Energy 
by doing less work more inefficiently. Early 
last year our (multiplicative) overhead rate 
was just about e (2.7 for the non-mathema- 
tician). The last fiscal quarter reported upon 
had it at about .'(3.14), and now it is running 
at 3.5. That is, for every dollar spent doing 
something, another $2.50 is wasted. Of 
course, in all the company propaganda, the 
management says how the overhead rate is 
too high, and should come down. But actu- 


M'i <«^ 


ally, it is in their financial best interest (at 
least in the near term) for it to be as high as 
possible. In 1991, we got rid of about 260 
people, and hired 140 or so. Almost all of 
those laid off were engineers, technicians or 
other technical people, and almost all of 
those hired were administrators/secretaries. 
For example: I work in a group with about 
six people, one of whom is the group leader 
but still a technical person (although lately 
he must spend nearly all his time on admin- 
istrative paperwork). Over him as well as 
several other similar groups there is a bigger 
boss. He had a secretary. That was it — two 
people. There are now eleven overhead peo- 
ple, including the original boss, two assistant 
bosses, what we call an "administrative as- 
sistant" (the old secretary), someone to make 
sure all the additional paperwork my imme- 
diate boss is doing is in the right format, a 
budget analyst, an EEO/AA administrator, a 
safety person, and at my last count three 
secretaries. Please note also that the com- 

pany has whole departments of people for 
budgets, EEO/AA, and safety, but our organi- 
zation now has its own, just to be safe, I 
guess. One thing about it: there's always 
someone to answer the phone now! 

One funny thing: the top managers of the 
company say they don't understand why the 
overhead rate is increasing, even though they 
are laying off what we call "direct job" 
people and hiring overhead people. Their 
solution? Hire a whole set of new overhead 
administrative people to figure it out! 

So, anyway, I'm looking for another job, 
hopefully doing something useful in the ci- 
vilian economy. Of course, the job market 
now is tight in the extreme, with the poor 
economy in general and government aero- 
space/defense cuts putting particular pres- 
sure on the technical job market. Making 
things worse, we as a country just do not 
seem to be able to get into civilian products, 
whether it's more efficient automobiles, 
more fun consumer electronics, or anything 
else people really need or want for them- 
selves. So, one thing I'm trying to do is get a 
teaching job — out of the country if I can. 

— Anonymous, New York 


Dear Friends, 

As Bill Clinton's affirmation of bad faith, 
"I still believe in a place called Hope," was 
quickly extended to the images of the smiling 
Marines and smiling Somalis of Operation 
Restore Hope a few weeks ago, I wondered 
why it was so hard to (look at] this humani- 
tarian invasion that the news media had 
spent months preparing us for. True, the 
images of Marines wading ashore on a me- 
dia-secured beach made us squirm. 

It is hard to argue against feeding starving 
people, and the produced sense of emer- 
gency and speedy response was intended to 
overwhelm all questioning and criticism. 
(Note that there have been no published 
opinion polls.) 

And there was the anaesthetic effect of the 
presidential election: "Clinton" meant 
"change" and wasn't Operation Restore 
Hope merely Bush's last hurrah, so couldn't 
we just wait for it to go away? Few shots were 
fired, except by news photographers, who 
"proved" that American troops were wel- 
comed by the populace. U.S. interests in 
Somalia didn't look blatantly imperial. And 1 
suspect that, given our mainly theoretical 
interest in politics, Somalia hasn't appeared 
"important" or "interesting" enough to war- 
rant our scrutiny. And then there were the 
holidays to think of... 

But shouldn't we discuss a situation that 
bears so much resemblance to Operation 
Desert Storm, even to the point of its being 
initiated with no coherent articulated mis- 
sion or goals? I don't have anything profound 
to say about this episode in the "war on 
poverty" (to recall a term from the '60s), but 
I would like to offer these almost random 
notes as a starting point for a collective look 

at Operation Restore Hope and its place in 
American foreign — and domestic, for that 
matter — policy. 

1 . As the campaign rhetoric of "change" 
makes way for the reality of continuity, it's 
clear that Clinton will build on the gains of 
the Bush and Reagan administrations (gains 
from the point of view of the State). These 
gains include the inculcation of the weirdly 
capitalist reflex of turning every social prob- 
lem into a business deal or into a matter for 
the police or other armed bodies. Why not 
then military charity — feeding the docile, 
starving niggers who flash their teeth at the 
cameras and kicking the asses of the gun-tot- 
ing black teenagers high on drugs? As early 
news stories made explicit, "anarchy" in 
Somalia is to be treated like "anarchy" in Los 
Angeles. (Note that veterans of Desert Storm 
participated in the pacification of L.A. Note 
too that some reformists, succumbing to the 
allure of fascism, wish that the Army would 
occupy American cities to "feed the hungry," 
"stop crime," and otherwise "clean up the 

And why not demonstrate once again — 
because the demonstration must be repeated 
over and over for the health of the State — the 
benevolent nature of the American show of 
force? As Bush himself noted. Operation 
Restore Hope should be seen as the next 
entry in the series Crenada-Panama-lraq; 
each of these interventions was covered by 
humanitarian rationales: to "stop drugs," to 
"stop aggression," to "save American lives," 
and so on. "Feeding the hungry" fits in nicely 
with this redefinition of the humanitarian 
gesture as a type of State terror, no matter 
that some Somalis get more to eat for a while. 
(Bush in Mogadishu, 31 Dec: "Now we're 
seeing that same kind of expertise, that same 
kind of dedication" as in Operation Desert 
Storm. "It's right, and it's God's work.") 

In any case, the Somali people — like past 
recipients of American "aid" — are regarded 
as passive objects of U.S. policies: They are 
neither consulted nor encouraged to join in 
the reconstruction of the country. All that is 
done for the Somalis is done to them — and 
this, includes the U.N. -sponsored negotia- 
tions between "factions," "clans," and "par- 
ties" (not that we know what these terms 


mean in context). (The image of "feeding 
centers" in Somalia is overlaid on images of 
the "strategic hamlets" in Vietnam and the 
housing projects of American cities...) 

2. Since Operation Restore Hope's pri- 
mary mission cannot be the safe distribution 
of food supplies in Somalia — such a mission 
would have taken place earlier and would 
have included other needy African countries 
(Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia) — then 
what is the objective of this rapid deployment 
of tens of thousands of soldiers backed up by 
artillery, armor, helicopters, and fighter- 
bombers? Public relations. But public rela- 
tions for diverse audiences and purposes. 
[and oil? See review of Midnight Oil on page 
53— ed.] 

First, there's the prestige advertising of the 
U.S. government itself. This show of force 
demonstrates the continuing American re- 
solve and ability to employ the military at 
will and to persuade the U.N. to follow 
American interests under the aegis of the 
New World Order. Like an oil company 
funding a wildlife refuge, the U.S. needs to 
sell itself (to the public opinion it helps form) 
as good, useful, responsible and personal — 
as representative of all that is right with the 
world. Invading Somalia restores faith in 
government. The truly powerful can afford 

Second, there's the advertising of the mili- 
tary at a time when Pentagon budgets are 
being carefully examined. Like Desert Storm, 
Restore Hope shows that the military does 
indeed have a post-Cold War mission and 
that the collapse of the Soviet Union gives 
the American military a free hand at interven- 
ing in poor countries. 

Third, Operation Restore Hope restores 
prestige to Bush's presidency, allowing him 
to leave office with a "foreign policy tri- 

Fourth, Restore Hope effectively rewrites 
the history of Desert Storm: If this operation 
is a humanitarian one, then so was Desert 
Storm. More locally. Restore Hope rewrites 
the recent history of American involvement 
in Somalia — involvement that was instru- 
mental in propping up Siad Barre as he 
waged war against the population. (History 
now begins with the civil war and famine 
after the overthrow of Siad Barre.) 

Fifth, Restore Hope softens up the public 
for the hot wars sure to come when the U.S. 
decides to "save lives" or "stop aggression" 
in the former Yugoslavia or Cuba or Iraq 
(again). (Note that for months now, Serb 
leader Milosevic has been demon ized by the 
news media as another Saddam Hussein 
(who was portrayed as another Hitler, etc.).) 

Sixth, taken together with recent Ameri- 
can moves in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq, 
Operation Restore Hope tends to ensure con- 
tinuity between the Bush and Clinton ad- 
ministrations in the eyes of the world. 

3. Public relations aside, the U.S. does 
have more traditional material interests in the 
region: strategic location and oil. Operation 


Ace Backwords sim 


SMART PeoPif WHO ^, 
WRITE Booics fmrrrm, 


l\/HAT IS 


flS A 




PoRTRaV PEoaf iMG 
CMoPPEti UP flWO EflrtM 

toM'T condone: 



Restore Hope reasserts American presence — 
broken off with the fall of Siad Barre — in a 
potentially low-risk, high-gain way. 

4. During the Gulf War, the peace move- 
ment merely reacted to events: No one 
marched till the bombs started falling, and 
the movement evaporated before the brief 
war was over. One got the impression that 
the peace movement — like other Americans, 
whether for or against Desert Storm — never 
quite believed in the reality of the war: The 
video images worked their magic on all. 

While it's true that the movement was 
marginalized by the news media, it did little 
to organize itself and its own publicity. Spon- 
taneity was one of the peace movement's 
major weaknesses: Responding immediately 
only to imminent danger to "our troops" 
(and, by extension, to the movement's idea 
of "the people"), the movement was unable 
to catch up to the strategy behind the Ameri- 
can Blitzkrieg. Feelings of urgency and moral 
outrage, necessary and laudable as they 
were, could not substitute for critical thinking 
about the politics of the Gulf War — and the 
wars it portended. (However, the peace 
movement did think hard about the role of 
the mass media in distorting and limiting the 
movement's influence and in forming pro- 
war opinion.) 

But as the peace movement discovered 
during the Gulf War — which it imagined as 
destined to become a prolonged, meat-grind- 
ing conflict like the Vietnam War — easy vic- 
tories are hard to criticize. A constituency 
formed against the "costs of war" (as one 
series of posters had it) is now much harder 
to organize or even appeal to — a kind of 
politics of reaction has been rendered obso- 
lete by technical and political developments 
in warfare. (Among the political develop- 
ments: the end of the Cold War and the threat 
of Soviet intervention, and the sophistication 
of the government and Pentagon image- 
shapers. Among the technical developments: 

the doctrine of employing overwhelming 
force against an enemy drastically reduces 
American casualties: wars are meant to be 
one-sided.) The American Blitzkrieg flat- 
tened Iraqi opposition while disarming the 
domestic anti-war movement. How then to 
protest Operation Restore Hope when even 
the recipientsof our imperial attentions come 
through unscathed, when the Marines raise 
the dead and implicitly promise — in a "new 
convenant" — to resurrect the country? 
— James Brook, San Francisco 



I think it's ridiculous to just be anti-anti 
all the time; after a while one ends up 
sounding like an Old Fboperoo, and the "Bad 
Attitude" (which I was never totally comfort- 
able with) becomes a querulous whine. I've 
been reading C.L.R. James lately (facing 
Reality from 1958) and what strikes me is 
how confident he is that the means for a new 
society are being worked out every day by 
"ordinary" people, and because of that, to 
talk of a vanguard party is the height of 
counterrevolutionary arrogance. Processed 
Worlders ought to ask how the "bad attitude" 
contributes to a positive project of self-eman- 
cipation. I think also of Marx's great apho- 
rism "these Germans do not consider 
themselves to be men who criticize, but as 
critics who have the incidental misfortune of 
being men." I think Processed World could 
well afford to declare a moratorium on all 
Tales of Toil unless they transcend mere com- 
plaint; otherwise, the tone will be too much 
the same. I did receive PW 30, by the way, 
and enjoyed it. But Primitivo should watch 
his Latin: quo vadis means "where are you 
going?" The phrase he was after was cui 
bono? Secondly, in "Processed Shit" Adam 
Cornford mentioned "Stuart and Mary 
Ewen." I think Elizabeth Ewen would be 
interested to know who's really been col- 


laborating on her husband's books. In gen- 
eral, I didn't like that article; it tried to cover 
too much ground in too short a space and 
ended up being superficial. He should have 
invested more of himself in a comparative 
discussion of, say, English and U.S. racism — 
or the prevalence of all-white editorial 
boards among purportedly left-wing theo- 
rists, or the ignorance about African-Ameri- 
can culture in general. But all the references 
to thermodynamics and shit clouded the 
cultural issue. Because of the specificity of 
African-American culture, it's best read from 
the inside, using its poets, writers, and yes, 
theoreticians, before any attempt is made to 
enlist it to a Marxist (or anarchist, or what- 
ever) project of transformation. The Bar! in- 
terview was really interesting, and Jon 
Christensen's piece on Brazil was terrific! 
More from him! 
— C.W., New York 


Dear Processed World: 

PW 29 arrived today, jammed into the 
new, undersized, stainless steel post box 
cemented into the side of my apartment 
building. I wrenched the magazine free and 
read from cover to cover, forgetting the after- 
noon's work. Another encouraging success 
from your collective! in a time when most 
activity/publications/scenarios are discour- 

Waste is alive and well in the Army. That's 
not news to anyone who has experienced the 
Dept. of Defense — America's largest em- 
ployer and a corporation with staggering 
assets. What caught my eye today were the 
actions of two off-duty DoD employees. 

At one of the shopettes at Fort Ord (several 
of these are located around the sprawling 
post; they are a kind of 7-1 1 for soldiers), I 
saw two moonlighting CI's cleaning the glass 
doors of the food freezers. As they worked, 
one admonished the other, "Don't work so 
fast. She (the manager) will only give us 
something else to do." They slowly cleaned 
the doors, running their paper towels up and 
down the chrome and glass, and they mag- 
nanimously stepped back when I went to 
select some ice cream. They stayed back 
when I walked away, shooting the breeze 
with another soldier who had come in to the 
store just to talk to them. It did my heart good 
to see this, and brought back memories of 
my experience in the civil service. 

After I left the military, I took a clerical 
job while I waited for California residency 
and the accompanying in-state tuition and 
educational grants that are one of the few 
benefits from taxes. I worked at the Defense 
Language Institute, the world's largest lan- 
guage training school, in Monterey, Califor- 
nia. The fact that DLI manages to graduate 
about 3,000 students a year from accredited 
language programs is nearly incomprehensi- 
ble to insiders, but a source of pride to the 
school's joint military-civilian leadership. In 

fact, the school, run by the Army, is an 
administrative nightmare in which the only 
way to survive is to actively resist the nearly 
overpowering status quo. Personal success 
here is always measured in terms of obtaining 
the means and confidence to quit DLI for 
greener pastures. 

Everyone who is or will be successful 
ultimately leaves. I saw teachers with ad- 
vanced degrees bail out at the first opportu- 
nity. Other instructors left to create art, or 
manage desks at hotels, or use their language 
skills in civilian education, which pays much 
more than DLI. More than one instructor 
quits without even having another job wait- 
ing. Aggressive administrative officers and 
their hard-charging secretaries worked at DLI 
only long enough to obtain "permanent" 
status in the federal civil service, which en- 
abled them to apply for transfer at the earliest 
opportunity to someplace decent, like the 
Naval Postgraduate School, also in Mon- 

Those who stay at DLI are the dredges of 
the local civil service corps. Typically, they 
have found niches in which they may survive 
indefinitely. I realized that they survive best 
in offices where the head honchos are mili- 
tary. These military officers rotate about 
every three years. Since it is nearly impossi- 
ble to fire a civil servant, most of these 
officers leave before they can garner enough 
evidence of incompetence/bad attitude to get 
rid of the errant civilians. Each new military 
replacement means more years may be safely 
logged in one's career book. 

The exception to this is in the area of 
Eastern European language instructors. Typi- 
cally, they are defectors or well-placed refu- 
gees who are debriefed by the American 
government and offered "jobs" and alien 
resident status in the United States. They are 
brought to the U.S., and most are ware- 
housed in Chicago until jobs open up some- 
where. The government then pays their 
transportation to their new home. These peo- 
ple, many of whom are professional archi- 
tects, civil engineers, world-class musicians, 
etc., are reduced to teaching basic language 
skills for approximately $25,000 per year in 
a place considered, after the Bay Area, to 
have the most expensive housing in the coun- 
try. These teaching positions are called "ex- 
cepted service," which means that the 
refugees are not as solidly placed in the 
federal career system as "permanent civil 
service" employees, who are practically 
guaranteed employment for life or thirty 
years, whichever ends first. 

Bursting with enthusiasm for a paycheck, 
I reported for work in an out-of-the-main- 
stream office in a 90-year old wooden build- 
ing. My boss was an easygoing Army 
lieutenant colonel who was finishing his ca- 
reer. In the office was an arrogant major, 
whose way I tried to stay out of, who was a 
Mormon chaplain. What he was doing in this 
office was beyond me, as the other chaplains 
on post worked out of another building. 

There was also a young, bright, female Navy 
officer awaiting the termination of her four- 
year military contract, and finally, a dredged 
civilian. Generally, the Navy officer and I 
worked for the lieutenant colonel, and the 
civilian worked for the chaplain. At least, 
that's how the office oriented itself after 

The civilian, who I'll call Richard, had 
been at DLI for about 12 years, having been 
unsuccessful in business endeavors in Tai- 
wan. He was living in what, in the old days, 
was called "reduced" circumstances. Even 
though he was 60 he ostensibly still had at 
least eight years to go before retirement, and 
eighteen years before he could realize the full 
benefits of civil service retirement. He was 
getting by on $6/hour, plus some extra 
money substitute-teaching for local public 
schools. He was worried about forced retire- 
ment due to his age, and the effect this would 
have on his pension. 

The office was in a terrible state when I 
arrived. The filing system was incomprehen- 
sible, as Richard had organized it only in his 
head. Richard's desk was overflowing with 
seven or eight huge piles of work to be done. 
At least once a week, one or more of these 
piles would fall off the desk, sending papers 
and books flying. When asked to do some- 
thing, Richard would simply say, "All right," 
and then never do it. He hardly bothered to 
change his pants, a pair of which he once 
wore for three straight months. I marveled at 
Richard and his lackadaisical attitude, and 
that he'd never been fired or even disciplined 
for his nonproductivity. I also wondered that 
he, clearly not liking this work, would con- 
tinue to show up year after year and wallow 
in the stagnation symbolized by his messy, 
overflowing desk. Richard was intelligent 
enough; he spoke well, though Chinese not 
at all. But he seemed to have no spirit beyond 
clipping out Wednesday's newspaper recipes 
and trying them out on his lovers. 

As I watched Richard, I became con- 
cerned that this is what happens when office 
work numbs a person, yet that person cannot 
leave the situation, perhaps (as in Richard's 
case) because of finances. Suffering under the 
dreadful monotony and hopelessly low pay, 
the spirit is strangled. One can hardly come 
up with the moral courage to leave. I worried 
that this might happen to me in eight years. 

I argued with the Mormon major on 
everything from religion to car parts. I openly 
joked with the Navy lieutenant about the 
state of the office. Sometimes we got so 
vicious that we'd have to leave the office 
because we were laughing so hard. I took 
longer lunches, handling the personal busi- 
ness I usually reserved for after work. I forged 
time cards to give myself a full week, even 
when I didn't work one. At the same time, I 
chastised Richard for forging his time card, 
irritating him to no end since he knew I was 
doing the same but lacked the spirit to retort 
and the innocence to snitch. 



I wrote ferociously at work; writing is a 
hobby I've enjoyed for many years. I pro- 
duced fiction, essays, poetry, even screen- 
writing. As long as I was supposed to be 
doing something for the office, I was over- 
flowing with the passion to write. Not that 
my job was difficult. I could do the day's 
work by 9 am, and then sit another two hours 
appearing busy at the screen, but actually 
writing dialogue or sketching office scenes. 
(At home later, sitting in front of my com- 
puter, I usually wrote little or nothing. I have 
always wondered why I have been seized 
with the desire to write while in situations 
where I'm not supposed to: work, school, 
church services.) 

I also wrote fake letters to and from differ- 
ent departments at DLI, on official letterhead. 
Always, the signature on the letter was a 
takeoff on an administrator's name. Copies 
of these letters often ended up in the in-boxes 
of the people I was satirizing. I was never 
caught, or even suspected. But when I was 
preparing to quit, I was forced to "break" my 
computer's hard drive and reinitialize it from 
scratch, to avoid prying eyes finding my 
"deleted" writing files. 

From inside DLI, I investigated person- 
nel/financial abuses by the higher-ups. I 
groomed moles and deep throats all over the 
post, who provided me with a steady stream 
of juicy information and even blatant gossip, 
which I repeated in broadsheets and pam- 
phlets typed up on the office computer and 
copied at office expense. These sources pro- 
vide information to this day. 

A month before I gained state residency I 
quit the civil service and took a graphic arts 
job in Carmel. There I would be for the first 
time exposed to the civilian world, in its own 
way much worse than federal service and 
made doubly so by the blatant money-suck- 
ing that Carmel businesses do in their never- 
ending attempts to separate the wealthy from 
their cash. After I quit that job, I gravitated 
from one place to another, and finally to 
self-employment. Basically, I now temp for 
myself, working when I want, and not an- 
swering the phone when I'm feeling lazy. It 
has its bad points. The pay is irregular, 
meaning I have to plan for two or three 
months at a time, instead of expecting a 
paycheck every two weeks. There is no medi- 
cal coverage. There is no vacation. Much of 
my work must be done on weekends. I must 
discipline myself to complete jobs when I'd 
rather spend the afternoon drinking beer and 
listening to music on the back deck. 

In the end, though, pluses outweigh mi- 
nuses. I work less time for more money (this 
is real job efficiency). I am free to take care 
of personal business during the week. No 
one, except the client, looks over my shoul- 
der, and even then, I dictate timeliness. 
Dress code is below casual, even when vis- 
iting customers' offices. 

Without the need for control (read: 
power), this way of working, I believe, would 
successfully transfer to any office environ- 


ment. There is no reason why the civilian 
shops in Carmel couldn't have operated this 
way. Nor, for that matter, why the Depart- 
ment of Defense couldn't. 

— Solly Malulu, P&cific Grove, CA 

More Work, Same Money? 

TO: pwmag 

I'm a grad student at UC Berkeley, writing 
a thesis on the effects of local area network 
technology on relations between labor capi- 
tal/management. The core points are the 

1 . New technologies require different 
kinds of effort from workers. Since the soft- 
ware is continuously changing, management 
now needs workers willing to exert the effort 
to learn and relearn things all the time. Also, 
since routines are hard to establish, managers 
are more dependent on workers to do lots of 
problem-solving, such as figuring out why 
the old WordPerfect macros don't work under 
the new network. 

2. Management's objective is to define 
these new tasks as "just part of the job," and 
thus avoid the delicate matter of how these 
new skills and behaviors should be compen- 
sated. They are often able to use computer 
advertisers' claims to support their argu- 
ments, "this technology is simple," when all 
end users know it's never that simple. 

3. I think some/most workers are quite 
aware that "more" work is being required. 

What I want to understand is how workers 
decide how much more effort to put out: 
D would a wage increase be sufficient? If 
so, how do you decide how much is a 
fair increase? 
D if there is no wage increase (which I 
think is what happens most often), 
what options do you have? 
D would you explicitly not do the new 
work? Perhaps call for support from a 
help desk (or other support) rather than 
struggling with a computer problem 
n do you discuss with coworkers how 

they are handling similar situations? 
I have more questions in this theme, and 
would like to initiate an electronic discussion 
with as many people there at Processed 
World who are willing to participate. My 
thesis is currently based on interviews with 
word processors and secretaries in both a law 
firm and a city government office. At one 
place, the managers complain that workers 
don't use the training they've gotten. I think 
this is consistent with resentment over having 
to "do more with less," but I need to deepen 
my understanding of why workers might re- 
act this way. 

I can be reached at (510) 549-2754 or by 
e-mail at LIB2IIR@UCBCMSA— Bitnet or 
— Libby Bishop, Berkeley, CA 


Making 5toopid 

■ very young person is re- 
in quired by law to suffer the 

■ 4 best hours of the day trapped 
in an ugly, overcrowded room, fac- 
ing front and listening to a frus- 
trated civil servant. The teacher 
probably knows that school is a 
waste of time but needs the pay- 
check and can't find work else- 
where. He or she answers to the 
principal who is subordinate to the 
superintendent who in turn is subor- 
dinate to the District. The alleged 
beneficiary of this process, the stu- 
dent, is at the bottom of a long chain 
of command, relegated within a hi- 
erarchy of classes and grades and 
tracks within grades. The student 
learns that he or she is an isolated 
object in an undifferentiated mass 
whose own intellectual, social, or 
sensual interests are irrelevant and 

Schools indoctrinate that life is by 
necessity routine, impersonal and bor- 
ing; that one's best interest is to shut up 
and conform; that spontaneity, creativ- 
ity and free thought are to be regarded 
with suspicion and hostility. Gudessness 
and apathy are rewarded while inde- 
pendent initiative is deterred by fear of 
failure and the prospect of punishment 

Schools emphasize students' rela- 
tionships with adult authorities while 
devaluing peer relationships. However, 
the crowding and rigid scheduling al- 
low for littie personal contact between 
students and teachers. Social contact 
between adults and children outside of 
the family is rare and suffused with sex- 
ual anxiety. A student gets individual 
attention only through being disobedi- 
ent; by the time the school shrink or 
gfuidance counselor meets with the stu- 
dent, he or she's been written off as 

Even when the classroom isn't over- 

crowded, individual engagement with 
the lessons is undermined by the ma- 
chine-like structure of the learning 
process. Lessons are largely handed 
down by an invisible bureaucracy. In- 
struction is programmed to shape ac- 
ceptable responses according to a 
predetermined goal - passing tests. 
The academic material itself is a kind of 
trivia with planned obsolescence, to be 
consumed and thrown away after its 
function is served. 

Schools serve the state and domi- 
nant institutional values by promoting 
myths about history, politics, science, 
and in fact, every subject they teach. 
Schools do their best to present a uni- 
form world view and exclude alterna- 
tives. To get any real education, one has 
to unlearn nearly everything school 
teaches in the first place! However, few 
people emerge from school with confi- 
dence intact in their own learning abili- 
ties. Fear of the hostile alien world 
outside of us diminishes our belief in 
our own feelings and experiences and 
induces chronic anxiety. Ultimately, 
many cling to the established world view 
for some (false) security. 

School routines are even more im- 
portant than the curriculum in incul- 
cating obedience and conformity. 
Permission is required for the relief of 
bodily needs, accompanied by a hall 
pass. Attendance is mandatory for 12 
years and constandy monitored. Ring- 
ing bells signal rigidly scheduled peri- 
ods. The school grounds can't be left 
during the day, and the outside world is 
patrolled by truancy officers. School fol- 
lows the student home as homework, 
preparing for a life of continuous work. 
Play is routinized under adult surveil- 
lance into recess and students are trau- 
matized with gym class, which can easily 
mean pubescent military training at the 
hands of a sadist. 

School circumscribes the experi- 
ence of being young, taking over many 
of the social functions of the extended 
family while serving as an agency of 
military and industrial recruitment. Ex- 

tended schooling prolongs the process 
of socialization and training well into 
adulthood. "Maturity" is defined as ac- 
commodation to and acceptance of an 
irrational and destructive social order. 
Ubiquitous propaganda urges 
young people to stay in school, usually 
featuring media-appointed role models 
like Magic Johnson or Spike Lee. An 
army of academic experts blame high 
drofKjut rates on backgrounds of pov- 
erty, cultural characteristics, family and 
emotional problems, etc. "No school, 
no job," they warn. Middle-class status 
and salaries come from diplomas; the 
remedy for poverty is more schooling. 
And that has become absurdly true! 
Even service jobs that take five minutes 
to learn require diplomas because schools 
certify punctuality and obedience. Success- 
ful schooling indicates tolerance for 
monotony and accommodation to the 

To get any real 

education, one has to 

unlearn nearly 

everything school 

teaches about history, 

politics or science in 

the first place! 

prevailing hierarchies of society. 

Education also serves as a warning 
to potential employers about "over- 
qualification." A B.A. from a liberal arts 
college indicates surplus education. 
This is a growing phenomenon in a 
society with less and less need for talent 
and ambition and more need for 
robotized service workers. 

Whatever learning occurs in schools 
is, at best, incidental to the aims and 
functions of the school system. Educa- 
tion does not create enthusiasm for 
learning, enrich our experience of 
growing up or give us confidence to 


exercise democratic initiative. It fosters 
cynicism and political withdrawal. 

The rise of public schooling beyond 
the sixth grade in the late 19th century 
coincided with the abolition of child 

labor from the factories, where they had 
done the most dangerous and arduous 
tasks. "Progressive" reformers saw that 
the long-range requirements of indus- 
try demanded a technically literate 

workforce; even unskilled lathe opera- 
tors needed to read blueprints and do 
fractions. Today literacy is less necessary 
for the maintenance of industrial pro- 
duction and the clerical system. Nu- 



merical control, cybernation, picto- 
grams, telephones, dictaphones, etc. 
have rendered the printed word in- 
creasingly obsolete in sectors of the 
economy with high job growth, i.e. re- 
tail, food service, etc. Yet barebones lit- 
eracy remains a justification for 
mandatory schooling. 

If children were taught basic lan- 
guage acquisition in the classroom it is 
doubtful anybody would be able to 
speak at all. Schools teach literacy by 
way of mechanical conditioning and 
repetition geared toward test-passing - 
a sure technique for inhibiting free ex- 
pression and understanding. No won- 
der so few emerge from school who 
enjoy reading; fewer still who value it as 
a means to enlightened critical reason- 
ing. The content of the reading mate- 
rial of the great majority - best sellers, 
newspapers, news magazines - is intel- 
lectually comparable to the shit on TV 
and radio. 

Literacy is required so that people 
can distinguish between brand names 
and decipher headlines. It's possible 
that people would be less susceptible to 
propaganda campaigns if they weren't 
so literate; certainly the highest level of 
political indoctrination seems to occur 


For at least three doq years 

We d\d shams 

And rolled the half-pipe 

On the qround5 of the club at night. 

By day things changed 

King qrsnd at a time. 

Before long notes came due. 

So for a fine price 

She suckled them to sleep 

On sweet milk of amnesia. 

- Blair Ewin^ 

among the highly literate readers of the 
New York Times and other "quality" me- 
dia. Literacy should be a useful tool that 
can lend meaning to our imagination 
and experience - not a means of sym- 
bol manipulation for propagating top- 
down decisions and advertisements. 

From the inception of the educa- 
tion experience, students are subjected 
to a battery of hastily timed true/false 

and multiple-choice tests. Such tests de- 
value speculative thought, which re- 
quires leisurely reflection and the 
possibility of arriving at conclusions 
that negate the presuppositions of the 
test-makers. The intense pressure for 
information retention and punishment 
for failure hardly encourage free think- 

Competitive testing and grading 
replicate the pressures of the job mar- 
ket. There are only a few prestigious 
jobs for the good test-takers. For the 
weeded-out majority, stupidity is a sen- 
sible reaction to the humiliation and 
embarrassment of the classroom. The 
deep-seated anti-intellectualism of 
American society surely has roots in the 
resentment and hostility to learning 
that school inculcates in its "failures." 

Popular views of intellectual 
achievement as elitism helps perpetu- 
ate the monopolization of educational 
resources by the privileged. However, 
ignorance of geography, basic political 
rights, lack of foreign languages, his- 
tory, etc. is just as prevalent at elite insti- 
tutions like Harvard or Princeton as in 
the general population. Far from coun- 
teracting ignorance, institutionalized 
learning threatens to bring about a new 
reign of universal cretinization. 

Social reformers have long argued 
that education can solve all problems. 
After a decade of deterioration and ne- 
glect, hopes are high that a renewed 
commitment by the federal govern- 
ment to upgrading the schools will pro- 
duce a workforce competitive with the 
U.S.'s main industrial rivals, Germany 
and Japan. This will supposedly curb 
the downward slide of living standards 
which is actually caused by the normal 
"healthy" expansion of the world mar- 
ket and capitalism. Mass education has 
been challenged at the level of public 
policy only by rightists of the William 
Bennett mentality who want to intro- 
duce free-market mechanisms into the 
existing system as part of the general 
trend toward a two-tiered society. But is 
the only alternative to privatization 
more useless training? 

The current school "crisis" is largely 
one of its own making. Crisis is omni- 
present in modern society; it's a way by 
which a small class of managers and 
professionals defines a problem to le- 
gitimize their continued control and 
insure the need for their expertise. This 
is an effective method of nullifying citi- 
zen involvement. Without a radical re- 
conception of the role of education in 


society, the remedy "more is better" will 
only waste more money and resources 
and further fuck us up. A more practical 
approach might be to just give the 
money to poor children directly rather 
than channeling it through a school 
system that wastes most of it on middle- 
class bureaucrats. 

One of the great claims made of the 
American public education system is that 
it sometimes brings under its roofs the 
children of different backgrounds and 
classes. But even with a college diploma, 
a black graduate is unlikely to earn as 
much money as a white high school 
graduate. The myth of equality of oppor- 
tunity through public schooling only im- 
presses on people that their failure to rise 
beyond their parents' status is their ovm 
faiilt, for lack of intelligence or effort - 
not the system's failure. 

Education is a big business. Univer- 
sity campuses occupy a lot of valuable 
real estate, and like any business, obey 
an imperative to constantly expand, 
often at the expense of surrounding 
communities. Universities consume bil- 
lions of taxpayer dollars for research 
and development while foundations 
and endovsTnents linked to large corpo- 
rations determine the goals and meth- 
ods of research. Schools are gigantic 
markets for building contractors, text- 
book companies, computer sales, labor 
unions, testing services, giant sports in- 
dustries, inept custodial fiefdoms, (pu- 
trid) food franchises, etc. In constantiy 
seeking to maximize "efficiency" and 
streamlining costs, administrators 
standardize their products and go 
where the money is - usually war re- 

Before the GI Bill and the post-war 
higher education boom, less than 50 
percent of Americans graduated from 
high school, much less college. To an 
extent that is difficult to appreciate in 
our age of universal compulsory school- 
ing, careers were learned by experi- 
ence, self-motivation, trial-and-error, 
and facing life head-on. Not so long 
ago, for example, if one wanted to be- 
come a journalist, one hung around the 
local newspaper office and did errands, 
picking up the tools of the trade 
through immersion in the environ- 
ment. Today, to get a foot in the door at 
a daily paper one must have a Master's 
degree in journalism - and the quality 
of journalism is more homogeneous 
and state<ontrolled than ever before 
thanks to its professionalism. 

In its role as a credential factory, the 

university insulates intellectual work 
from public affairs. Academics go for 
patronage and status at the expense of 
hyperspecialization, abstraction and in- 
creasingly rarefied jargon. As Russell 
Jacoby has written: "Universities not 
only monopolize intellectual life, they 
bankrupt independent producers. In 
an economy of $3 trillion, the means of 
support for non-academic intellectuals 
relendessly shrinks. Circles of intellec- 
tuals which existed or subsisted outside 
the university.. .belong to the past. To- 
day even painters, dancers and novelists 
are usually affiliated with academic in- 

Schools are an essential component 
of the regimentation of the population 
to the national "needs" as defined by 
the profit system. Unqualified eco- 
nomic growth is axiomatic among the 

educated classes; to reject it is to oper- 
ate outside the boundaries of per- 
missable discourse as defined by 
academe, evidence of emotional or cul- 
tural backwardness. 

Our productive capacity should ren- 
der scarcity obsolete, eliminating pov- 
erty and improving life. Instead, 
innovation is wastefully harnessed to 
the development of weapons and new 
commodities that become all-pervasive 
while de-skilling people, making their 
increasingly mechanized and bureau- 
cratic environment less and less com- 
prehensible. Education turns out more 
PhDs and more experts to reinforce our 
sense of powerlessness. 

The present school system produces 
some who find satisfying work, but the 
vast majority are forced to find their 
human self-worth as consumers in a rat- 

University of Califorina 


MBA, Manager of Bulldozing & Acquisition, 
MPA, Monster of Power Administration, 
BA, Brutalizing Arts, BS, Bomb Science, MD, Mad Dog 
PhD, *Phagedenic Discharge, JD, Juvenile Delinquent. 

*A rapidly spreading destructive ulcer or cancerous growth. 

Support David Nadel and Ihe oiher victims of DCs Siralegic Law Suit Against Public Panicipalion. (SLA. PR Suit) 
Contact Ashkenaz Defense Fund. 1317 San Pablo Avenue. Berkeley. CA (.MO) 525-5054 



race of unnecessary toil devoted to de- 
structive economic growth. The present 
school system obstructs our ability to 
participate in shaping the policies that 
afifect our lives. 

No single institution, like the mono- 
lithic school system programmed by a 
National Education Association, can 
prepare everybody for a social role. The 
current system needs to be decentral- 
ized, emphasizing other possibilities of 

educating, appropriate to various abili- 
ties, conditions and communities. We 
need to make our whole environment 
more educative rather than ghettoizing 
the concept of education in the schools, 
which amounts to littie more than a 
system of social engineering for the cor- 
porations and the state. 

"School" in Greek originally meant 
"serious leisure." Young people went 
about the city of Athens meeting citi- 

zens and observing the different occu- 
pations and activities that took place. It 
would be infinitely better to let kids 
hang out and investigate society by 
themselves, especially if they have ac- 
cess to workplaces and homes where 
they could question the division of la- 
bor (manual vs. intellectual) and the 
distinction between work and play. 

- Mickey D. 

If you want them to be very brilliant tell them even more fairy tales. 

Albert Einstein 



SEPTEMBER 18, 1991. Central 
Office, Espanola School Dis- 
trict, Espanola, New Mexico. 
The Director of the district's Title 
Vn bilingual program reads to us 
five "paraprofessional tutors" from 
a prepared statement: "At-risk LEP 
students wUl participate in an Eng- 
lish language development program 
in which conceptual understanding 
is enhanced using the interactive in- 
structional media of Uterary arts, 
music, drama, visual/media arts 
and creative writing. Subcompo- 
nent objectives: LEP students will 
gain cognitive/academic language 
proficiency, English language con- 
ceptual development, and content 
area knowledge by participating in 
an interactive literary arts instruc- 
tional program." 

She meets our glazed eyes and, real- 
izing that perhaps the statement itself is 
not English, puts it aside and tells that, 
to put it simply, our goal is to build the 
children's "self-esteem" so that they do 
better on something called the Califor- 
nia Test of Bzisic Skills. 

California, apparendy, is the meas- 
ure of all things, even in rural New 
Mexico; California decides which skills 
are basic. Even the whole idea of "self- 
esteem" as personal commodity, a meas- 
urable quantity that can be added to or 
subtracted from depending on the pres- 
ence or absence of the proper thera- 
peutic environment, sounds very 
California New Age. If this facile idea of 
self-esteem were in fact true, I can envi- 
sion a Skinner Box world controlled by 
professional esteem-builders, in which 
we all do very well on our "skills" tests 
and become happy and, above all, 
highly productive citizens. 

Of the five tutors for this twice- 
weekly after-school program, I am by far 
the most unqualified. But if someone 
doesn't fill the "Imaginative Writing" 
slot, federal funds will remain unspent. 

and that would be unthinkable. The 
public schools are collectively the larg- 
est employer in Rio Arriba county, 
which is one of the poorest counties in 
the second-poorest state in the nation. 
So the federal pump must be kept 
primed. The main thing is, the Director 
has asked me in my interview,do I like 
children? Well, I say, in a tone that sug- 
gests I like them mosdy fricasseed with 
onions on the side, a recipe I learned 
from the W.C. Fields cookbook, well... 
Great, says the Director; sign right here. 

October 8, 1991. My first day teach- 
ing! I have prepared an opening ora- 
tion worthy of address to the U.N. 
General Assembly, full of high-flown no- 
tions of discovering identity, heritage, 
roots, through writing and self-expres- 
sion. The 10 or so 6th grade faces, all 
mestizo, regard me with a mixture of 
amusement, boredom, and scorn. 

'You talk funny." 

"Is the art teacher your..? (giggle)." 

"Yeah, do you and her (snicker) get 
busy?" (Peals). 

Welcome to 6th grade, fool. Don't 
you remember? 

October 15. I'm not ready to give 
up on my theme yet; hope springs eter- 
nal for the new teacher, or at least until 
mid-fall. Columbus Day, or as it's called 
in Mexico, Dia de las Razas (Day of the 
Races), is around the corner, and I 
would like to get some student reflec- 
tions on their Hispanicity. What might 
be their thoughts on the "discovery" 
and the conquest? The question, which 
I put to them in various ways, draws a 
blank. I have expected at least the kind 
of laconism, no less poignant for its 
impassivity, expressed on the Mexico 
City plaque at the site of Cortes' decisive 
victory over the Aztecs: "Neither good 
nor bad but the painful birth of the 
Mexican people." These children, how- 
ever, appear to have not even a clue as 
to their racial identity. They have never 
heard the word mestizo, and they ada- 
mantiy refuse to recognize their Indian 
blood. Instead, they call themselves 
"Spanish." It's as if Juarez and Bolivar 
and the wars of independence from 

Spain, which ushered in a proud mestizo 
identity to the rest of the Americas, had 
never taken place. 

What is to account for this abysmal 
ignorance? The U.S. educational sys- 
tem, plainly. Detractors of this system, 
which is practically everybody these 
days including members of the ruling 
elite, who cynically enrich themselves 
from this ignorance while denouncing 
it, often complain that the system's too 
"centralized." But let's see what "local 
control" of education has meant to Rio 
Arriba county schools. For one thing, 
the local tax base is so low that these 
schools get about half the funding, per 
capita, as compared to richer school 
districts, such as neighboring Los 
Alamos county, an enclave of middle- 
class atomic scientists. For another, the 
school board consists of five men who, 
like virtually all Rio Arriba county ofil- 
cials, are pawns of political boss Emilio 
Naranjo and his Democratic Party ma- 

How can I get them 
to accept that I might 
possess cultural tools 
they can use to over- 
throw the culture I 

chine. Twenty-five years ago, a radical 
named Reies Lopez Tixerina led a na- 
tionalist uprising in Rio Arriba county 
which was ultimately quashed by the 
tanks and machine guns of the National 
Guard. Tixerina had an accurate name 
for his people, indo-hispanos, and told 
them their modem history, which is the 
history of the rip off of their land by the 
U.S. Government and the land-hungry 
capitalists it serves following the Mexi- 
can-American War. When all the forces 
of repression came down on Tixerina, 
he served his prison time and then re- 
tired to the village of Coyote to teach his 
children at home. Meanwhile, Mr. 
Naranjo and his Democrats tightened 


their grip on local politics and, by ex- 
tension, the schools, for the purpose of 
propagating the ignorance that has 
served them so well. This year, the 
Espaiiola city fathers have commis- 
sioned a statue of Juan de Onate, the 
region's greedy Spanish conquistador. 
A statue of a conquistador, a stone's 
throw from two Indian pueblos! Such 
a thing would be unthinkable in Latin 
America (except for some very special- 

ized purpose, such as at the Cortes Pal- 
ace in Cuernavaca). 

October 29. It's Halloween time, 
and the children's thoughts are red 
with gore. The stories they devise are all 
rehashes of the nightmares on Elm 
Street and the antics of Freddy Kruger 
and litde Chuckie. Tales of terror in the 
white suburbs; nothing autochthonous, 
nothing set in their own rural environ- 
ment, nothing involving figures from 
their own traditions, such as La Llorona, 

the ghostly woman who wanders in 
search of her drowned children. The 
children are imbued with television and 
Hollywood culture. 

November 12. After a month of 
teaching, I can say that nearly all my 
students are deficient in attention, over- 
stimulated, aggressive. What makes 
them this way? I have canvassed a few 
veteran teachers on this, and they all tell 
me whatever the cause (television gets 

Jan's Story 

The teacher is ranting on in an inaudi- 
ble mumble about something that has to 
do with Chapter 12. I don't really care, 
the class starts at 7:40 in the morning 
and all I want to do is sleep, anyhow. It's 
like this every day. Doesn't seem to 
matter much, I get A's in the class on my 
report card. Never study for it, either. 
It's an American Democracy class, 
which is a bit dull to me since it covers 
what I studied in about two weeks in my 
Advanced Placement US History class. 
Boring — yes. A waste of time — yes. But 
it's a graduation requirement so I've got 
to live with it or I'll never get out of this 
place. Too bad — I'd really like to be in a 
humanities class. Oh well, just 86 days 
to graduation. 

Well, now that I've had my morning 
nap, it's time for Psychology. It's a great 
class led by one of the seemingly few 
interactive teachers left in the world. He 
gives great lectures and is good at getting 
people to think. It would probably be 
even better if we had textbooks to study 
from. But such is the nature of a class 
whose budget is controlled by our 
friendly California governor Pete Wilson. 
I guess he didn't like school as much as 
I do. We learn to make the best of it at 
any rate. Well, at least most of us. We 
have about a 20% drop-out rate in 
California. It's impossible to say how 
many more students would care about 
their education and stay in school if 
society showed that it cared about their 
education, too. 

The next class is my favorite. Creative 
Writing — my love, one of my main rea- 
sons for living. No complaints here. Ex- 
cept that the class is not always 
available. This is the first year of its 
reinstatement since I don't know when, 
and it is only a one-semester class this 
year. In the second semester it is Film 
Lit, which doesn't realty work out all that 
badly for me. Film is another reason to 

Fourth period — Art History. This is a 
new class for me, I've just dropped 
Physics. (I couldn't hear that teacher 
either, and I couldn't wing it through like 
Am. Dem.) I had the teacher when I was 
a freshman and he was great, but the 
past three years have aged him five times 
their length. He has slowed down quite 
a bit, and relies on mindlessly dull videos 
narrated by people with snobby English 
accents that drag out the last three 
syllables of every sentence. This is cou- 
pled with background Baroque classical 
music and the dull lighting of the room. 
The whole class sleeps. Even the teacher 
sometimes. It's nothing contemptuous, 
we try to watch the films, but they have 
quite a strong lulling effect to them. 

The bell rings waking us up for lunch. 
Everybody splits into their lunch crowds. 
Mine is comprised of those who claim to 
have rejected the rest of the school, 
which in turn claims to have rejected 
them. You know who I'm talking about — 
the punks (people in the punk scene, not 
thugs), the hippies, and the original 
(what you might call weird). A few peo- 
ple pass by us every day to ask if we want 
to buy any pot or acid; those that have 
money do. The cafeteria food, as at all 
public schools on earth as I understand, 
is utterly repulsive (and never vegetar- 
ian), so we rely on the neighborhood 
restaurants, which are too expensive. We 
usually end up getting 30-cent bread 
rolls from a Chinese pastry place. Some 
of my friends roll a joint and get stoned 
in the driveway. Not me. My afternoon 
classes are too important to me. By the 
time we've had a couple of cigarettes, 
it's time for fifth period. 

If there's anybody with a more mo- 
notonous voice than my Advanced 
Placement English teacher, I don't want 
to know about it. I love English, and the 
guy isn't that bad of a teacher, I guess, 
it's just difficult to be interested in him 
when he's talking. He gives me sort of 
lousy grades because he doesn't like my 
style much. He likes words for their 
technical value, not for what they con- 
vey from the writer's heart. Oh well. 

that's his trip. I can live through a year 
of B's and C's, I suppose, but I work my 
butt off in the class anyway. 

Last class of the day — Advanced 
Drama. A third reason for living. In the 
lower-level classes my drama teacher 
proves that it's possible to take a large 
group of rowdy kids who, for the most 
part, are taking the class only to fulfill a 
performing arts requirement, get them 
focused, and interest them under per- 
haps the most difficult of conditions. 
(The drama classes are usually very large 
and meet in the auditorium, which has 
horrible acoustics.) The Advanced class 
is full of people who really do care about 
acting. Today we do improv scenes. 

The final bell has rung and it's time 
to get to my after-school job, I guess my 
school isn't really all that bad. It's by no 
means ideal, but at least it works for 
some. Unfortunately not many of them 
are African American (a couple years 
ago there were something like 78 Afri- 
can Americans in the graduating class 
and only one graduated), and unfortu- 
nately there are lots of classes missing 
that should be there, and lots that need 
materials to meet their full |>otential. 
But's it's something for those who are 
really determined to extract the most 
they can out of it. Sometimes I feel like 
I'm trying to squeeze a gallon of juice 
out of a single lemon. And sometimes all 
I can think about is all the hate I see 
taught in my classrooms — most teachers 
I've had have only brought up homo- 
sexuality as a joke to be immediately 
followed by several more from the stu- 
dents. I had a teacher last year who also 
taught Sunday School. She would come 
into our history class to preach that 
abortion was murder. I know of several 
people she taught who had more than 
enough other people telling them that 
the decision they were making was 
wrong. I haven't given a very optimistic 
image of my school, but there's a lot to 
be angry at, a lot to be changed. I'm not 
complaining for myself, I'm complaining 
for a generation. Me — I've only got 85 
days to graduation. 



¥^ gH ssssa [gl g^ 


Graphic: Fred Rinne 

most of the blame), these things have 
been getting a lot worse in recent years. 

December 10. It's getting near 
Christmas, presumably a family time, 
and I would like my students to write 
something about their families. They 
are eager to tell me, orally, about an 
uncle on the lam from the law, a dope- 
dealing cousin, a brother who stole and 
pawned the family's log-splitter last 
week. But they don't wish to commit 
these confessions to paper; they don't 
want to get into trouble, they say. So this 
week we setde for composing obscene 
poems about Santa Claus, which is the 
only other writing topic that seems to 
inspire them today. 

January 7. Inauspicious beginning 
of a new semester. I would like to begin 
a long-term project, such as keeping a 
journal, but they find that overwhelm- 
ing. I try to convince them its easy; I tell 
them I'm keeping one about this very 
class. Alarmed, they demand to see it, 
but I tell them they can't undl they 
begin to write their own. Nah, forget it 

then. So it's back to the usual daily 
topics: "The Story of a Dime," "If I Were 
Invisible," "My Favorite Pet." Clarence, 
who has rings of weariness under his 
eyes but is also one of the more hyper- 
active, as though he is kept up every 
night and given stimulant pills for 
breakfast, has a typical opening to "If I 
Could Fly": "If I could fly, I would fly 
over the school and piss and shit on all 
the teachers (except Mr. Ferret)..." 

February 15. I can appreciate the 
children's loathing of teachers and 
schools; I never cared for them much 
myself. I am convinced that the schools 
are part of what Althusser called the 
Ideological State Apparatus, or what 
Gramsci called hegemony, that finely- 
tuned combination of police repression 
and ideological control. And that I, in 
my capacity as a teacher, am both po- 
liceman and administrator of that ide- 
ology. But I am also concerned, like 
Gramsci, that their nearly total incom- 
petence in reading and writing, in 
either English or Spanish, will leave 

them wanting in some of the tools and 
skills they need to overthrow the domi- 
nant culture. My situation, then, is ex- 
tremely awkward. 

They are well aware, if not of my 
particular dilemma, then certainly of 
the master-slave dialectic that exists be- 
tween us. If they were a couple of grades 
younger, I might be able to get them to 
perform just to please me, like pet dogs. 
But now they are old enough to be 
aware that my own identity as a success- 
ful teacher depends on their perform- 
ance. I need them more than they need 
me. It's my "self-esteem," not theirs, 
that is at stake. And within the logic of 
this dialectic of dominance and submis- 
sion, they are right, of course. So how 
can I get them to accept that I might 
possess cultural tools they can use to 
overthrow the culture I represent? 

I don't think, as teacher, I can. Ask- 
ing them, as I do this day, to do the work 
"for themselves," that it's "for their own 
good" sounds so ridiculous that it sticks 
in my throat. 



February 25. These children's 
threats of violence to each other, which 
they sometimes carry out, are enough 
to make you cringe. Particularly disturb- 
ing are the boys' threats to rape the 
girls. At this age, the girls are as big as 
the boys and are often the aggressors. 
But what happens when sexual dimor- 
phism sets in and the boys get big 
enough to overpower the girls? Last 
week I got fed up with their threats and 
yelled at them and kicked a chair across 
the room. That got their attention, and 
they were very subdued the rest of the 
day, but I felt ashamed, because it was 
such a contradictory thing, using vio- 
lence to assert that violence is wrong. 

This week I return humbled by my 
own conscience, hoping that last week's 
rage hasn't crushed or alienated them 
completely. Fat chance. They greet me 
warmly, if a littie smugly. "You lost it last 
week, huh?" says Tony, our main bully. 
I have shown that I am human, and this 
pleases them, and I have shown that 
they can get to me, and some of them, 
especially Tony, like that even more. 

From what I have gathered from 
other teachers and from Tony himself, 
he has a wretched home life, and so he 
is probably "acting out" a lot of his un- 
happiness. Most bullies, however, if we 
are to believe the famous recent Swed- 
ish bully study, are not at all the fragile 
emotional vessels the liberal therapy es- 
tablishment likes to claim they are, but 
are in fact well-adjusted litde thugs that 
go on to bully their way to the top of all 
kinds of businesses and institutions. So 
when so much anti-social behavior is 
rewarded by success in present society, 
what exacdy does it mean to build "self- 
esteem" and "security"? In Tony's case, 
I guess it means smoothing out a few of 

the rougher psychotic edges (which 
would handicap him, however, if he 
were to be called to serve his nation's 
military in some far-off land) and con- 
trolling his tears of frustration (also a 
handicap if he were to be called to con- 
gress or court to explain why he massa- 
cred all those people). Apart from that, 
it's... Go get 'em, litde tiger! 

In fact, self-esteem, as I understand 
it, does not appear to be much lacking 
in these children, at least to my thera- 
peutically untrained eye. For one thing, 
they are highly arrogant about their 
ignorance. Well, maybe there's a basis 
to this arrogance; it must take a good 
deal of concentration and willpower to 
sit through twelve years of school and 
come out not knowing how to read, as a 
large percentage of students these days 
do. In any case, "self-esteem" does not 
seem to me to be something terribly 
lacking in the American character. As 
an example, a graph in Andrew 
Shapiro's book We're Number One! (New 
York, 1992) shows 68% of American 
13-year-olds saying they are "good at 
math," and only 23% of South Koreans 
saying the same. The Americans' aver- 
age math proficiency score is 473.9, be- 
low the mean of 500; the Koreans' is 

April 7. It's the middle of basketball 
season, and basketball is all that is on 
the children's minds. Having given up 
on getting them to write (save for a 
couple of pieces on, what else, basket- 
ball), I allow them to go out and play it. 
On the basketball court I see them, for 
the first time, really work together, with- 
out coercion, and have a good time 
doing it. My presence is scarcely noted 
or needed. Basketball is the best thing 
that's happened to this class all year. I 

decide to let them play basketball as 
much as they want for the rest of the 
term; if my superiors call me on it, I will 
tell them it's all preparation for writing 
more basketball stories. Besides, my 
classroom is always locked now: the cus- 
todian died of acute alcohol poisoning 
the other day, and nobody ever seems 
to have another set of keys. 

May 12. The basketball scheme has 
worked. I haven't been called on this 
unusual method for teaching writing, 
and the school year is now slouching 
toward its end. Part of my superiors' 
indifference to my method is no doubt 
owed to the fact that this particular pro- 
gram will probably not be funded next 
year because of some kind of malfea- 
sance or neglect at the central office (it 
has been like pulling teeth to get paid 
and sometimes we weren't paid for 
months on end, but finally we did get 
all that was owed us). 

May 19. Last week! In sum, what can 
I say my experience taught me about 
teaching? Right off, I'd say that we 
shouldn't even try to "teach" children 
after a certain age. Teach them the ba- 
sics when they're young, probably by 
good old rote methods, and when they 
get to the age, around fifth grade, when 
they become aware of school as the 
prison or factory it is, let all those who 
want to go play and explore and dis- 
cover things on their own, but always 
with academic or didactic resources at 
their disposal, should they want them. 
Maybe only by giving them their free- 
dom will they actually learn something 

- Salvador Ferret 

TWISTED IMAGE ^y Ace Backwords ©h« 


For a 3DB / 

CftN -DO VJ\rH C/)RR0r5 At4't> J 





Sure, there's work that needs to be done if 
we want to live well. But even useful jobs 
waste a lot of time shuffling papers and 
satisfying arbitrary company procedures. 
A lot of work is utterly worthless: war 
production, making wasteful & toxic things, 
advertising, insurance, banking, real estate. 


We don't just get income from work, we 
also get self-respect — or at least we expect 
to. We want the dignity that comes from 
pulling our own weight, not the abuse, 
boredom and threats to our health and 
sanity that most jobs impose. 


The job, or wage-slavery, co-opts our basi- 
cally sound human desires to contribute to 
society. Jobs pit us against each other for 
"scarce" work, even when it's obvious that 
there are plenty of important things going 
undone. The power attributed to money 

keeps us from considering unpaid work as 
"real work." From so-called women's work 
(maintaining the home, raising children, 
i.e. new workers), to volunteer labor in its 
many forms, meaningful work often lacks 
respect — and pay. When we define "real 
work" as that which is paid, the important 
things in life (family, arts, fun) are de- 
graded and undervalued. 


Jobs keep us from doing things that are 
meaningful to us. Whether it's playing 
music, viriting, cooking, socializing, reading, 
fixing things, losing ourselves in contem- 
plation or just plain goofing off, there are 
countless better ways to pass our time than 
on the job. 


You don't just trade your time for money, 
you lose any say over what work is done, 
why, and how it's organized. Freedom of 
speech or assembly, basic American rights, 
don't exist on the job. And in some cases 
you give up your health, or even your life. 

We don't want more enforced 

powerlessness and misery. It's 

time to drastically REDUCE the 

work-week (the 10-hour week 

sounds like a good beginning!) 

and that means severing the link 

between work and income. After 

all these decades of "progress," 

isn't it time that we all enjoyed 

the fruits of automation? Isn't it 

time we control our own lives 

and create a life worth living, 

reducing burdensome work to a 

minimum, and erase the perverse 

distinction between useful and 

pleasurable activity? 

Respond on bach of $50 bill and send to: 
Committee for Full Enjoyment 


Clo 41 Sutter St. //I829 
San Francisco. CA 94104 


Fast Learner 


ow, what's that in hexadeci- 

"Um..." Luis managed, his face con- 
torted with a mix of consternation and 

"You remember hexadecimal, don't 

"Get real, man!" he shot back, blush- 
ing with insulted pride. 

"Well, Where's the problem homes?" 

A deeply introspective expression 
animated the pupil's face, and he 
opened his mouth to speak when the 
school bell rang. "Well, we'll try it again 

Graphic: JRS 

tomorrow," the teacher said to the tat- 
too of Luis' sneakers as they carried Luis 
out of the classroom door and down the 

Bill sank into his worn oak swivel 
chair at the teacher's desk and emitted 
a sigh barely audible over the growing 
cacophony of students flooding the cor- 
ridor at recess. He pushed his glasses up 
on his forehead with both fists and 
rubbed his slightiy bloodshot and burn- 
ing eyes. 

"How's the master pedagogue this 
fine morning?" Tim's voice sounded in 
a practiced professional pitch intended 

to convey optimism and authority. Bill's 
delayed response reflected a lack of 
sleep caused by his latest affair. He 
hoped it came across as careful rumina- 

"We seem to have hit another snag 
at memory blocks and hexadecimal," 
he finally replied, adjusting his specs 
and eyeing the assistant principal's im- 
peccably professional grooming. Tim's 
flawless coiffure and pressed, stylish 
shirt reminded Bill that he had not 
showered in five days, but at least he 
hopefully camouflaged his funk in suf- 
ficient deodorant, cologne and clean 
clothes. Bill's hygiene suffered from the 
time-consuming nightly hedonism with 
Wild Donna. 

"We may have to try another tack 
with Luis," Bill offered. Tim's left eye- 
brow arched in inquiring anticipation. 
Bill's renewed eye-rubbing bought him 
more time as he recalled the 
strategy he was using in Luis' 

^^^ teaching. "Let's go grab some 
coffee in the lounge while we 
discuss this," Bill said. "Sounds 
good to me," Tim replied. 

Bill shovelled some papers into his 
briefcase and slung it under his arm. As 
the two teachers headed down the hall 
toward the lounge. Bill began to discuss 
his strategy. "I've reached a plateau in 
the effectiveness of the transdermals at 
this stage," he began, referring to the 
devil's brewof methamphetamine, ben- 
zodiazepines, and Du Pont TA-437 he 
administered to Luis every morning be- 
fore classes. "TA" stood for "teaching 
z^ent," one of the family of new com- 
pounds being used to enhance involun- 
tary absorption of information 
presented in an educational setting. 

"I think adding the stimulator at this 
point will speed us over this hurdle," he 
continued. The stimulator was an elec- 
tronic teaching aid that could be 
plugged into the surgically implanted 
jack located at the intersection of Luis' 
spinal column and skull. The device 
could be switched to various intensity 
settings for either positive or negative 
reinforcement. NeuroTek, the IBM and 

Eli Lilly consortium which developed 
and marketed the fantastically popular 
and profitable device, disavowed the 
popular notion that it operated on the 
crude but effective principles of pleas- 
ure and pain, since it had no outward 
physical effects. However, the facial ex- 
pressions of someone under its influ- 
ence told an altogether different story. 
Nonetheless, its dramatic impact on 
various behavior modification indus- 
tries from penology to pedagogy over- 
whelmed the objections of its moralistic 

Bill nervously fingered the stimula- 
tor jack behind his left ear as he 
brought the topic up. When he ac- 
quired his implant, the stimulator was 
still a relatively experimental device, 
and its application was strictly control- 
led by laws requiring that its use be 
totally voluntary. Bill attributed his at- 
tainment of both a Ph.D. in behavioral 
neurology and an M.D. within 3 years to 
itsjudicious self-application. His success 
made it much easier for him to accept 
its increasingly widespread involuntary 
application in teaching and behavior 

"So the regular rewards and demer- 
its aren't enough together with the 
transdermals to jump this hurdle in 
your opinion?" Tim asked. 

"Well, it's not a matter of their in- 
ability to influence the lad's progress," 
Bill replied. "It's more a matter of the 
time constraints we have in this project. 
As you well know, Luis' corporate spon- 
sor has awarded us with his contract on 
the condition of some pretty specific 
goals that we have to attain by the time 
he's 18." 

"What were they again? They expect 
him to become one of their chief sys- 
tems design experts by then - or some- 
thing like that?" 

"Well, without getting bogged down 
in specifics, we've agreed to train him 
to the level of a double - no, actually a 
triple Ph.D. by the time the contract 
runs out when he's 18." 

"So that gives us, what, six more 
years?" "Five and a half, actually. But 



because his parents contracted with us 
to take over, and because of the leeway 
we're granted by the Federal Excep- 
tional Pupils Development Act, we can 
concentrate on his training without a 
lot of childhood ephemera making de- 
mands on his time," Bill replied as they 
reached the coffee counter in the teach- 
ers' lounge. 

"No teaching tricks to puppy dogs, 
no newspaper routes, and no teenage 
lust getting in the way, eh?" "With a 
child of Luis' exceptional potential, 
such trivial childhood activities would 
be an incredible waste of developmen- 
tal potential. Frankly, they'd run 
counter to the imperative of speeding 
up his development toward a preco- 
cious economic contribution." 

"Point well taken," Tim replied, 
pouring them both a mug of steaming 
coffee. "It's kids like Luis and teaching 
like this that'll enable us to regain all 
the ground we've lost to Japan eco- 

"With the subliminal motivation ori- 
entation we provide him during his 
sleep and daily video viewing, he'll 
never miss the crap most teenagers find 
indispensable to their happiness," Bill 
continued. "Frankly, he's happy as a 
clam just striving to meet his instruc- 

tional quotas. He's really livingjustifica- 
tion of the whole program. He vs'as as 
happy mastering integral calculus as 
any average kid would be learning how 
to masturbate." "Yes, Luis is quite an 
exceptional lad," Tim said, nodding 

Bill took a deep draught of his cof- 
fee and made a satisfied-sounding sigh. 
He basked in Tim's appreciation of his 
student's abilities and felt the accolades 
reflected positively on his own accom- 
plishments as Luis' mentor. The re- 
tainer paid by Luis' future employer 
added signlficantiy to the school's fi- 
nancial viability, and Bill felt their in- 
vestment would pay off handsomely in 
the research and development depart- 
ment. Bill also felt good about enabling 
Luis to have such a great head start in 
his career. 

"Well, I've got to be getting back to 
work, recess is almost over," Bill said, 
draining his mug. After setting it on a 
tray in front of the dishwashing room, 
he headed out the door vsdth a fiiendly 
nod toward Tim. 

Dusk had settied over the campus by 
the time Bill had finished the adminis- 
trative paperwork and headed across 
the shady grove of eucalyptus trees to- 
ward his car. A twig snapped behind 
him, and before he could react, two sets 
of arms grabbed him from behind. A 
plug violentiy snapped into his stimula- 
tor jack, and someone stepped out from 
behind a tree trunk in front of him and 
drenched his face with fluid. 

Blinking drops from his eyes, Bill 
focused on Luis holding an emptyjar of 
transdermal solution. Bill jerked invol- 
untarily as the stimulator was cranked 
to maximum negative reinforcement. 

"On your knees, asshole! We're go- 
ing to teach you some tricks!" Luis 
crowed, waving the stimulator's con- 
trol. As his knees began to buckle. Bill 
gasped in admiration. "Christ, these 
kids learn fast!" 

by R.L. Tripp 



Fat Lot of Good it 

Did Me! 

Before I'd even gotten 
through my first "Dick and 
Jane" saga, I was being 
Hrmly nudged in the direction of 
college. "With a college degree 
you'll be set for life," my working- 
class parents constandy intoned, as 
if they could seal my fate by sheer 
repetition of the phrase. Although 
they had never experienced such 
higher-educational wonders first- 
hand, they firmly believed in the 
first tenet of American Progress - 
a college education guarantees "the 
good life" - even if their faith in 
Catholic dogma had gotten a litde 

To set me on course towards the 
American Dream, my parents enrolled 
me in the local parochial schools for 
their strict discipline and purported 
academic excellence. Although most 
"publics" shudder at the thought, 
Catholic education does have its pluses: 
learning how to follow orders unques- 
tioningly, brown-nose authority figures 
shamelessly, tolerate oppressive condi- 
tions and absurd rules, maintain a cool 
head while evading said rules, and lie so 
convincingly you even begin believing 
your own Reaganesque whoppers - all 
invaluable in the workplace. 

You can imagine my future shock at 
my college dorm-mates' descriptions of 
their "Open School" experiences, 
which to my parochial ears sounded like 
some new form of child abuse. I 
couldn't understand how such indul- 
gence and laxity could do anything but 
set my tender classmates up for a life of 
frustration, failure, and bitter disap- 
pointment. Unhampered self-expres- 
sion? What nonsense! My education 
had posed no such hazards. 

As an added plus, the thoughtful 
Catholic school student develops an 
amazing capacity to view even the most 
petrified and all-encompassing belief 
systems with a heaping helping of skep- 
ticism. To this day I relish mentally de- 
molishing every sacred cow in creation. 

My radical skepticism was consider- 
ably enhanced after I ran across a dusty 
two-volume set of biographies of great 
men and women in the elementary 
school library. Not one to let my school- 
ing interfere with my education, I al- 
ways kept a good book on hand to get 
me through the more boring classroom 
bullshit. However, the revelations in 
those two volumes generated more ex- 
citement than I'd bargained for. 

For one thing, their author had the 
audacity to suggest that Saint Joan of 
Arc wasn't really a saint at all but a nut 
case, and that the great Queen Cleopa- 
tra of Egypt was, in the parlance of my 
elders, a "nigger!" Of particular interest 
was the secdon on Karl Marx, which 
made the social system advocated by the 
original Godless Communist sound sus- 
piciously like the early Christian life- 
style our religion text kept praising to 
high heaven. Moreover, to a miner's 

The thoughtful 

Catholic school 

student develops an 

amazing capacity to 

view even the most 

petrified and 


belief systems with a 

heaping helping of 


daughter, this brief introduction to 
Marxist economic theory was akin to 
first noticing in a lifetime in coal coun- 
try that coal is black. 

Unfortunately, my new-found ap- 
preciation of Marxism led me to vote 
for the Communist Party presidential 
candidate in the eighth-grade mock 
election, a faux pas which under- 
standably generated the mother of all 
lectures from our black-gabardine- 
shrouded keeper. Mercifully, because 
the voting was anonymous, her outrage 
was directed at the kids in my row of 
desks in general instead of myself in 

My new class consciousness was to be 
rapidly obliterated after my matricula- 
tion at the local Catholic high school, 
where Time magazine was as subversive 
as the library got. Timev/as then singing 
the praises of something called "supply- 
side economics." What a revelation! I'd 
never before realized that giving ob- 
scenely wealthy people a lot more 
money could work such wonders for the 
likes of me. Being cured of this delusion 
in due time did have its plus side: after 
realizing that the supply-siders' "unseen 
hand" would make a great Three-card 
Monte dealer, I developed a healthy 
disrespect for the printed word. In the 
meantime, my faith in the superiority of 
Catholic education received a serious 
jolt when I learned that the local public 
high school had quite a few of those new 
wonder machines called computers, 
whereas we had a grand total of none. 
As a result, I began to shop around for 
colleges outside the Catholic ghetto. 
On a visit to a well-regarded nearby 
university, I received some invaluable 
assistance from a black Barbadoan grad 
student in navigating the rough seas of 
higher-education planning. Before I 
left, he gave me one last word of advice: 
"For most people, education can be a 
double-edged sword: it teaches you to 



value a lifestyle you'll be hard-pressed 
to ever live." Faced with the choice be- 
tween four years of college and working 
as a payroll clerk in my overbearing 
mother's office, I dutifully ignored this 
advice and decided to go for the sheep- 
skin. "After all," I reasoned, "I ain't got 
nothin' better to do." 

After my near-perfect grades and 
brown-nosing ability won me a scholar- 
ship to a prestigious Quaker-founded 
liberal arts college, I was sure I was well 
on my way to "the good life." My parish 
priest was equally sure my soul was well 
on its way to hell. Litde did Father Mac 
realize that the heavy dose of morality I 
received under his auspices (reinforced 
by assurances that the slightest misstep 
jabbed poor Jesus' sacred heart like a 
stiletto) would be fully reinforced at 
Swatmore College. However, Swat- 
more's heavy emphasis on educating 
students to busy themselves promoting 
"social justice" would prove a cruel dis- 
service in the "real world." For a contest- 
ant entering that rat race, enduring 
such well-meaning brainwashing is 
much like paying to have your legs tied 
together before the starting bell 
sounds. Moreover, any genuine desire 
to do socially beneficial or even neutral 
work makes torment and frustration a 
sure bet. Fortunately, my matriculation 
at Swatmore, an intellectual pressure- 
cooker notorious for student suicides, 

would postpone this agony with a more 
rarified one. 

I entered my first English Literature 
class by default, since the best classes 
were all filled before I got a clue about 
how the byzantine course registration 
system operated. The default course left 
me a litUe cold, but as a budding fiction 
writer, I wanted to get an early start on 
my all-important Literature Degree, so 
I took what I could get. 

The class started out entertainingly 
enough with the professor leading us in 
an analysis of several bawdy medieval 
limericks. But after cranking out several 
well-thought-out term papers on more 
complex works and being rewarded 
with several D's and F's, I soon realized 
that my evaluator didn't give a pound- 
ing butter churn about what I honestiy 
thought the authors were trying to con- 
vey. Being a dirty old Freudian, he 
wanted smut Being dependent on fed- 
eral grants that were collectable for a 
maximum of 4 years (those days are 
gone forever!), I soon realized I'd bet- 
ter give the guy what he wanted or risk 
remedial education I couldn't under- 
write. So for my next term paper topic, 
I selected the sweetest little sonnet I 
could find- and proceeded to read as 
much raw, unbridled lust into it as hu- 
manly possible. By the time I finished 
analyzing that dewy violet straining to 
grow uphill, it had been transformed 
into a gushing priapus of epic propor- 

Although driven to this new tactic by 
desperation, I doubted whether the 
professor would fall for it. I even wor- 
ried he'd interpret my effort as a sarcas- 
tic slight against his analytical 
proclivities. Not to worry: he not only 
took the bait, he relished it. I got my first 
A, and from then on even my most 
lukewarm efforts were graded kindly. 
What's more, I had learned my most 
important higher-education lesson: 
screw intellectiuil honesty! If you want to 
bag your degree before you're 30, fig- 
ure out what the professor wants and 
then give it to him - preferably on a 
silver platter. 

So, having learned it's better to join 
a Freudian than fight him, I decided to 
skip the literature major in favor of psy- 

As a psych major, I thoroughly en- 
joyed being able to read deep-seated 
pathology into every last eyebrow twitch 
of my fellow classmates (particularly the 
really snobby ones), but I was dismayed 
by the contentious subjectivity of it all. 

For every purportedly comprehensive 
theory, there seemed to be an equal and 
opposite competing theory (see also 
"Confessions of an Atheist Priest," page 
42). In contrast, biology had an appeal- 
ing objectivity. As a result, I was blown 
away by my first course in physiological 
psychology, taught by a charismatic, en- 
couraging professor who prided him- 
self on seeding future research mavens 
with every cross<ampus stroll. 

When Professor Oppenheim ac- 
cepted me into his senior seminar and 
lab practicum in learning and memory, 
I was thrilled beyond words. Soon he 
was encouraging me to look into gradu- 
ate programs and voicing his concern 
that the word "social" was appearing 
much too frequendy in the tides of my 
senior course selections. 

One such selection was a senior 
seminar in social and political philoso- 
phy taught by a macho aficionado of the 
cult of the strenuous intellect. He em- 
ployed something he called the 
"pseudo-Socratic method," a teaching 
technique based heavily on public hu- 
miliation. Whenever a student ex- 
pressed even the most tentative 
opinion. Professor Schuldenliess would 
verbally beat her down so hard that 
she'd become a petrified mute and ac- 
cept everything he said as Gospel. This 
experience did litde to boost my self- 
confidence as I gingerly prepared to 
face the "real world." However, it did 



provide me with an invaluable lesson in 
the true nature of participatory democ- 
racy - namely, that we should let the 
"experts" run our lives because we obvi- 
ously can't figure out how to do it our- 

"Statistics for Social Scientists" was 
another course that taught me a few 
things I hadn't bargained for. The pro- 
fessor's examples of statistical applica- 
tions shed more light on his social 
prejudices than on the subject matter. 
Some of these examples included the 
discovery of a positive correlation be- 
tween a female's attractiveness and her 
social class status and between being 
black and performing poorly in school. 
A lack of attractiveness caused by my 
working-class background earned me a 
D in the class despite my comprehen- 
sion of the material. 

Meanwhile, back in the lab, my re- 
search efforts were coming to fruition 
just as grad school application dead- 
lines began rearing their ugly heads. 
But the more absorbed I became in 
puzzling out how sleep etches memo- 
ries, the more my own sleep was dis- 
turbed by vivid nightmares in which my 
beloved professor injected me with gro- 
tesque parasites under the watchful 
gaze of vengeful rats. 

What's more, I started having sec- 
ond and third thoughts about the value 
of our research, particularly consider- 
ing the torment I regularly inflicted on 
my scaly-tailed friends in the lab. The 
human brain was a lot more compli- 
cated than I'd suspected after acing the 
introductory course, and I was begin- 
ning to wonder whether frying a rat's 
frontal lobes could realistically be ex- 
pected to shed light on the subject. Plus, 
I had a tendency to laugh hysterically 
while juicing the rats' electrodes, more 
out of nervous tension than sadistic joy 
- although I vras beginning to wonder 
about the psychic calluses forming on 
my own mind. 

I would not have to ponder such 
repercussions for long, as a dearth of 
funding put grad school quite out of my 
reach. As I began scanning the classi- 
fieds and grimly noting the rent I'd 
have to pay, the jobs I'd be qualified for, 
and the salary I'd earn, I soon realized 
I was facing a different nightmare alto- 

After spending a few months after 
graduation and my meager savings 
avoiding the inevitable, I accepted a 
part-time secretarial job in the P.R. of- 
fice of my alma mater's nearby clone. 

AT ME?!? 

Graphic: CC 

You can imagine the enthusiasm with 
which I executed my duties considering 
the fine career opportunities I had to 
choose from after earning my precious 
degree. Twenty hours a week, $4.50 an 
hour, no benefits - and this was the 
pick of the litter. With such a windfall, I 
was able to move in with a maiden 
cousin who lived in a run-dovm suburb 
near an abandoned quarry. Nothing 
like a college degree to set you up for 

It soon hit me that there really was 
no socially meaningful and personally 
rewarding vocational slot out there for 
me, prestigious degree or no. Most of 
the employers I spoke to were mostiy 
concerned with how fast I typed. Fortu- 
nately, I could type pretty fast. Several 
years of odious editorial work inter- 
spersed with welcome stints of poorly 
subsidized unemployment got me a 
writing job in the P.R. office of a nearby 
mediocre university known for coop- 
erative education. Along with a priestly 
salary in the high teens and full bene- 
fits, I could get myself a free night- 
school graduate technoeducation zis 
well. Since the rent had to be paid and 
nothing better presented itself, I took 
what I could get. 

Although most of the job involved 
cranking out press releases on award- 

winning buck-toothed students for 
hometown newspapers, things occa- 
sionally got more interesting. Some- 
times we got to write about faculty 
research. Making basic research on the 
sex life of some fungus sound like it 
holds the cure for cancer was anything 
if not challenging, particularly consid- 
ering that because the faculty believed 
we fiacks and our stupid projects were 
worthless, their cooperation was nil. 
However, they did muster the enthusi- 
asm to fight tooth and nail against any 
attempts to make their research sound 
more relevant than it actually was. 

Of course, it wasn't always that hard 
to make the university's activities sound 
relevant For instance, although I was a 
strong supporter of the nuclear freeze 
movement, I was asked to acclaim the 
honorary degree the university had 
awarded the nearby General Electric 
plant's president This plant cranked 
out "reentry vehicles" - nuclear missile 
bodies - with the help of our many 
engineering graduates. (Those few 
D.U. yuppies-in-training with enough 
social conscience to detest "defense" 
work complained bitterly about the lack 
of engineering jobs in non-mayhem-re- 
lated fields.) Because I'd just been 
scolded for consistent lateness, I 
couldn't really decline the assignment 



but my finished product was less than 

Such workaday distractions were 
counterbalanced by the nighdy distrac- 
tions of graduate school. Although 
some of my technical communications 
class work was worthwhile, mostof itwas 
a miniature version of what I was ex- 
pected to do all day at the office and 
could practically do in my sleep (and 
often did). 

Of course my family did hint that life 
might not be all peaches and cream no 
matter how much education I got. My 
depression-era father had always 
stressed that bank accounts and regular 
paychecks could evaporate at any time. 
He also told tales of people pushing 
wheelbarrows full of money to the store 
for a loaf of bread, and suggested that 
such events were not necessarily re- 
stricted to newsreels of 1920s Germany. 
An organic gardener before ecology be- 
came a P.R. ploy. Daddy stressed the 
importance of being as self-sufficient as 
possible and showed me how to pick 
teaberries and snack on birch bark in 
the nearby woods. 'You'll eat anything 
if you're hungry enough," he ex- 

After a lifetime of working with dy- 
namite in all kinds of weather, my father 
was rewarded with a fatal heart attack 
before retirement ever came in sight. 
Development is now fast encroaching 
on our old foraging grounds, and even 
the deer are finding free goodies hard 
to come by. Today, after all those hours 

in the classroom, it's finally dawned on 
me that I let one major free goodie slip 
right by. I was slated to inherit Daddy's 
lakeside cabin when I turned 21, but 
owing to other people's greed and neg- 
ligence and my own lack of resources 
zmd legal moxie, I have yet to obtain this 
crucial buffer between myself and com- 
plete dependence on a paycheck. "Pur- 
suing Your Legal Rights" was one course 
I was never offered in school - and for 
that matter neither was "Coping with 
Your Leeching Landlord." 

After 16+ years of formal education, 
I am now conversant with the structure 
and function of DNA, the color theories 
of the Impressionists, Maslow's hierar- 
chy of needs, and many other fascinat- 
ing concepts I can entertain myself with 
while feeding the office xerox machine. 
I do not know how to build or maintain 
my own home, grow my own food, pro- 
duce my own energy, or sew my own 
clothes - basic skills my grandparents 
took for granted. Everything I need to 
survive must be earned by suffering 
endless indignities in exchange for a 
paycheck that could be cut off at any 
moment. The job market and the 
money system it feeds could care less 
about my well-being, but without them, 
I'm a fish out of water. This is progress? 

I recentiy thought I'd made some 
real vocational progress after finding a 
job educating people about how to 
cope with their health problems. But 
although I was grateful to finally be 
doing something worthwhile, I was re- 

warded with a skimpy wage and no 
benefits and couldn't accept having ba- 
sic medical care remain just outside my 
do-gooding reach. So now I'm earning 
a reasonable vrage and full health bene- 
fits by editing half-assed articles for an 
odious HMO that jerks its patients 
around like a 3-year-old with a new 
puppy on a short leash. Has my hyper- 
literacy finally paid off? Well, I now 
make the same damn yearly wage as an 
old college friend who managed to 
reach sophomore status before drop- 
ping out. By the way, this college friend 
happens to be male. 

Despite this, by any stretch of the 
imagination I'd be considered middle 
class, so I guess my precious degree did 
vaunt me out of the socioeconomic 
lower depths. But working class or no, 
I'm still a working stiff. The basic intol- 
erability and insecurity of this situation 
has convinced me there's gotta be a 
better way. As we go to press, I'm still 
working on it If I manage to construct 
an escape hatch out of a system that's at 
best indifferent to our needs and de- 
sires and at worst death-dealing, you'll 
be the first to know. In the meantime, 
I'll take what I can get, and get away with 
as much as I possibly can. At least I've 
learned to appreciate the limitations of 
a good education. 

by Dolores Job 


^ l.^MEi>^M 

Graphic: I.B. Nelson 




So tired, so very tired. Even hav- 
ing trouble thinking clearly. 
But now, at last, a lucid mo- 
ment: *^e must not allow this,*' I 
kept telling them, "and if that means 
takii^^ it to the streets, so be it" 
Unfortunately, they didn't listen, 
and Fm too exhausted to continue. 
If I could only... only... What was I 
going to say? Oh yeah, sleep. Hah! 
Now that is funny. Takes me back, 
too. When was that, five years ago or 
six? Back when it was free. Probably 
about the only thing that still was, 
Mliich made its regulation by "the 
overpowering force of the market- 
place" inevitable. Everything else 
was big business, after all - from 
sex to air fresheners. 

Suddenly I'm marching down a 
street with thousands of people. They 
seem to be chanting something like, 
"Sleep for rest, not for profit." What was 
I doing there? Of course, I was there to 
protest, too. In fact, as I recall, I helped 
organize the whole thing - and what a 
success it was! All those people, unified 
and angfry. And for good reason. It was, 
after all, such an outrageous idea, or at 
least it seemed to be until the govern- 
ment launched its counterattack. How- 
ever, by the time the hack ministers, 
pseudocommissions, and media surro- 
gates finished flooding the public with 
"study" results and misinformation 
about the scheme's purported advan- 
tages, a lot of them actually started to 
believe in it 

My thoughts drift slowly toward re- 
laxation, raising my hopes. Sleep seems 
to be coming... wonderful sleep... bliss- 
ful nothingness... I can just begin to feel 
it. ..trying to get in around the 
edges.. .but, no, it's not to be. Damn it, 
this is really awful. Now where was I? Ah 
yes, all those people falling for the gov- 
ernment line. How could they have 
been so stupid! But the government 
promisedjobs, economic growth - and 

who can argue with that? Certainly not 
me, although I tried. "Dignity!" I cried, 
"we must have dignity!" "Jobs!" they 
cried back, "we must have jobs!" 
Strange thing was, there weren't even 
that many jobs to be had from it, what 
with automation. But times were tough 
and people will take what they can get. 
A faint, mournful dirge is coming 
from my living room. I've been hearing 
a lot of strange things recendy, so I only 
allow myself to be distracted by it briefly. 
So, what tactic did we try next? Well, we 
compared the enterprise to a tax. That 
worked better, but in the wrong way. 
"The rich must pay more," cried one 
side. "An hour's sleep is an hour's sleep, 
whether you're rich or poor, " the other 
responded. The debate became so ran- 
corous it threatened to undo the whole 
scheme. Cursing my fading memory, I 
have to ask myself why it didn't. Several 
more moments reflection provide the 
answer: we were outmaneuvered by the 
government's proposal for a "Guaran- 
teed Social Minimum." With that single 
stroke, they defused a raucous mob, 
turned it into a genteel cheering sec- 
tion, and earned accolades from the 
populists for standing up to the rich. My 
last card? "It's unholy to interfere with 
our sleep!" It triggered great theologi- 
cal debates, but in a secular society, 
those debates have littie impact; they 
certainly didn't in this case. 

They checked my 
file. Everything was 

in order. They 

explained that they 

can only stop me 

from sleeping, not 

make me sleep when 

I can't, but I was 

getting suspicious. 

Now wait a second - what's hap- 
pening? The dirge has grown quite 
loud. There are people marching right 
in front of me. They seem quite happy, 
judging by the smiles on their faces, 
even if their dirge remains grimly som- 
ber. And quite a cross-section of people 
they are too - white-collar, blue-collar, 
even the clergy - all, it seems, except 
the poor. None takes any notice of me 
as they pass by, which is something of a 
relief. At least they haven't come for 

For a few seconds I try to figure out 
how they got into my apartment. When 
they pass through the wall on their way 
out, I have my answer - it was a halluci- 
nation. They say when you can't sleep, 
you start to dream while you're awake 
- and they're right. How long has it 
been now? Two and a half days. That's, 
let's see, how many hours? One is 24, so 
two is.. .is.. .48. Halifof that again comes 
to 50. No, that's not right. Why can't I 
think? Sixty, it comes to 60. Sixty hours 
without sleep! Must be some land of 

A scientist materializes in front of 
me. He's wearing a white lab coat and 
steel rimmed glasses, and he has a thick 
accent. "Ve ha£F develupt a cheemekul 
dat keepz you from sleepink," he says 
proudly, holding up a test tube filled 
with clear liquid. He then picks up a 
vial of pills and adds "Unless you take 
theess." He starts detailing how the 
chemical interferes with the function- 
ing of the hypothalamus and the sleep 
cycle, but before I can ask him any ques- 
tions, he's replaced by a bearded man 
in a wrinkled suit. Puffing on a pipe, he 
asserts that adding the chemical to the 
water supply could create a vast new 
pharmaceutical industry; charging "x" 
amount of money for each pill (that is, 
for each hour's sleep) would generate 
"y" amount of profits and "z" amount of 
reinvestment. He starts babbling about 
growth curves, elasticity of demand, job 
markets. As I start to object, he too 
dissolves. I find myself talking to a po- 
liceman who intends to arrest anybody 
distributing untreated water. "To hell 



Sleep With Mouth Open 

Place it here Don't rise up so impatiently We are with a morning all the untidy 
waves creep toward Underneath Capture Moments when the flood fills 
And years ago they swept Johnstown with my backside Morning The clock 
strikes the back post Unfortunately, I climbed before the tide I closed your eyes 
with my lids I sunk down and took oblivion This is a generation The mo- 
ment you bare yourself 

Funk isn't my word in someone else's breath Hello I'm being me The televi- 
sion isn't on Place it here I sink down The bellydancer reminds me of my na- 
vel The time between time Moment Moment when the sound ends There 
is sweat down my back 

Happen Then I call you Night 

I'm awake I got my body to rise 

Hello If I answer will I get paid? Cycles of nature freaks sink the shoulders in 
front You're not vision Your sleep is maintaining slips 

People like us 

Sleep with our mouths 

Wide open 

Sometimes we get so cra2y We drive right in front of water The bars are closing 
Holier kisses Lips she laughs The thought of striking someone Pretty soon 
gasoline takes the place of needles It doesn't take one out into the clearing salt 

Break pace Day never before being this way Being this way Before Forget 
to remember the pace Break open the food Preserve and place it here Patience 
We're getting over the flight Turbulence The activity of the jive jumbling stag- 
nant day 

Hello Hello Are you there! Areyouawakel Does it sound like people rest- 

—Marina Lazzara 

TWISTED IMAGE ^y Ace Backwords ewi 

NOGGIN/ WiT« \w rue STATE 

with you!" I yell at him. He starts laugh- 
ing. "Sleep well," he sneers as he fades 

At least for the moment nobody 
takes his place. A cold shower might not 
only keep him from coming back, but 
wake me up enough to figure out what 
to do. Before I can act on this impulse, 
my mind wanders back to the first night 
I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned, 
but nothing approaching sleep ever 
came. Yesterday, I went to the doctor. 
She said I was fine- at least physically- 
and she prescribed some medication. It 
didn't help. I went to the customer serv- 
ice center this morning. They checked 
my file. Everything was in order. They 
explained that they can only stop me 
from sleeping, not make me sleep when 
I can't, but I was getting suspicious. I 
went to some of my friends, the ones in 
high places. Too high, as it turned out 
They had pushed the hardest for a 
Guaranteed Social Minimum ("GSM") 
of 5 pills a night, which made them 
popular and influential. None was in- 
terested in rocking the boat, especially 
for somebody who'd continued to agi- 
tate against the whole scheme long after 
it had become unfashionable to do so. 
Besides, with the GSM firmly in place, 
such deprivation was impossible, they 
explained. When I suggested that I was 
deliberately being given placebos, they 
just accused me of being paranoid. "See 
a doctor," they suggested. I told them I 
had. "Try a different one," they said. I 
did. And still no sleep... 

I'm hearing a voice now, a familiar 
voice. It's mine. It's asking me how long 
I can live without sleep. I tell myself I 
don't know. From the way I'm feeling, 
not too long. How long is "not too 
long"? A day or two at most. 

A walk, maybe I'll take a walk. Fresh 
air sounds better than a cold shower. 
Can I walk? Yes I can, though not very 
steadily. Well enough to get me outside, 
though. Now which way should I go? 
This way, I think. God, I feel so awful! If 
I cross this street here, I'll be at the park. 
That should be a good place to... Good 
grief! What's coming toward me? It's 
sure making a funny noise... 

"James Russell, political activist and so- 
cial critic, was killed in an automobile acci- 
dent last night on Bellevue Street. Russell, 
43, died instantly when he stepped into the 
street against the traffic light and was struck 
by an oncoming car " 

- Greg Evans 









Whether you drive a car or suffer public transportation, 
you are likely to spend ludicrous amounts of time commuting. 
Getting from place to place wastes our time, subjects us to 
absurd levels of stress and dirties our air to boot. It is also 
unpaid time, spent for the benefit of your employer. 

Is commuting the separation of work and residence by 
ever greater distances, necessary, useful or sheer wasted What 
of the human interactions that take place in the anonymous 
but public space that is our time en routed 

Public transportation is underfunded, overtaxed and 
expensive. The car industry continues to benefit from massive 
subsidies to roads and personal expenditures for health care 
(how many road kills does it take?...) Alternative transpor- 
tation ideas have been kicked around for some time without 

Yet, there's stuff happening out there. If transit issues rile 
you up, write us. We'd like to hear more and disseminate it. 
So we're starting a regular Transit Zone section. Send your 
ideas, opinions and experiences. Are cars here to stay ? What 
does a Green City transit future look like? 


Car hijacking has occurred for as long as cars have 
been around, but police departments and media pun- 
dits have, for the first time, started compiling separate 
statistics for this so-called "new" crime. They've even 
trumpeted a "new word"- "carjacking." Carjacking is 
distinct from mere auto theft in that it is often inflicted 
upon an occupied car rather than a parked one. 
Paradoxically, the presence of the car owner makes the vehicle 
more, rather than less, vulnerable. 

Carjacking is usually performed for the sheer per- 
verse pleasure of theft and joyriding. The majority of 
carjacked autos are not stolen for long-term use, profit 
or resale, but simply for an evening's worth of destruc- 
tive jaunting and then abandoned. One exception, 
though, is New Jersey's hardened carjackers, who 
often seek out and steal a specific make, or even color, 
of car (usually sporty models) to fill an "order" for a 
hot vehicle, but even there the specially targeted autos 
are usually taken only for an evening of drag racing. 
Hotly pursued carjackers driving at incredible speeds 
have died in gruesome crashes. It is an illogical and 




■^^ V^^^ 










'o o 





uneconomical crime. The trivial 
payoff of a night's use of a car 
doesn't come anywhere close to 
compensating for the incredible 
risk of death or punishment. 

Carjacking is, at bottom, a so- 
cial crime, both vengeance and 
reparation directed towards those 
wealthy enough to acquire these 
overvalued icons. This degree of 
self- and other-destructive action 
reflects the rising tide of social 
chaos following in the wake of the 
Los Angeles riots (remember 
those?). While the massive disor- 
der in L.A., along with echoing 
mayhem in such cities as San Fran- 
cisco, West Las Vegas, Chicago and 
New York, has been minimized as 
much as possible by the main- 
stream media, it nevertheless has 
left deep wounds in the collective 
unconsciousness of the nation. 
Recorded and broadcast by live 
cameras in eyeinthesky helicop- 
ters, these riots demonstrated the 






I f I I I I I t 



fragility of the social order. "Law 
and Order" most of the time de- 
pends on the mere expectation of 
the application of police force. 
When that expectation is demon- 
strably frustrated, "Law" evapo- 
rates except in those few places 
where it can directiy apply fire- 

This primal knowledge has fil- 
tered into public awareness. L.A. 
yuppies have responded by arming 
themselves to their teeth with 
shiny, trendy littie automatic hand- 
guns. No Gucci bag, they now re- 
alize, is complete or safe if it 
doesn't contain some metal with 
which to defend it. An illusion of 
safety has been exposed, as has 
been the case, in spades, regarding 

For decades, cars projected a 
facade of safety, privacy and immu- 
nity, a bubble of social space in 
some ways as isolated and personal 
as the home itself (of course, for 
many people, the family car is the 
home). This sense of safety and 
power has always been mostiy an 
illusion since the speed that iso- 
lates the car from casual interven- 
tion also puts its owner at severe 

The tinted or mirrored glass 
provides privacy but wall not stop a 
well-tossed brick or botde; 

A cellular phone can hook one 
up to 91 1 but it is doubtful carjack- 
ers will wait the five minutes it takes 
to actually get a live person on the 

One can get "The Club" to 
freeze the steering wheel or an 
electronic code that cuts off the 
fuel in case of tampering, so much 
more reason for the thief to assault 
a driver in a car that is warmed up 
and ready to go; 

Car alarms are more likely to 
wake up one's neighbors with in- 
cessant false warnings (and per- 
haps motivate petty vandalism on 
their part) than deter a deter- 
mined thief. 

If vandalism, rather than theft, 
is the goal, then any car is dead 



meat. Antennae snap right off; 
tires are easily booby-trapped with 
nails or screws set carefully into the 
tread so that a flat occurs many 
miles from the scene of the sabo- 
tage; sugar in the gas tank will dis- 
able most vehicles. Irate 
pedestrians often punish piggly 
parked cars blocking sidewalks by 
"keying" them, (scraping 
housekeys along the sides or hood 
to scratch their expensive finish). 

How did these fragile bubbles 
project their illusionary isolation 
for so long? Part of the answer lies 
in the massive hype that has sur- 
rounded the automobile since its 
debut as massmarketed merchan- 
dise. From the beginning, the car 
has been presented as more than 
mere transportation. It is a sex 
symbol, a phallic signifier of social 
status and importance. For in- 
stance, is anything more silly and 
ostentatious than a stretch limo, 
something whose functions could 
clearly be better filled by a bus or 

Cars, we're told, set you free. 
You can take them on the freewdcy 
and go anywhere you want! But 
this freeAom is indeed expensive, 
with many families spending 
onethird to onehalf their income 
to maintain "wheels." Consider 
the cost of the vehicle itself; inter- 
est on the unpaid principal of a car 
loan (few cars worth anything are 
owned outright); insurance on the 
car, unpaid loan principal and li- 
ability of the driver (s); fuel, main- 
tenance and, probably, constant 
repairs. This is freedom? 

In many ways, cars have cruised 
for decades on a road paved with 
false assumptions, hidden costs 
and illogical contradictions. They 
poison the air while toxic cleanup 
costs are endlessly deferred. So 
called "freeways" are heavily subsi- 
dized at taxpayers' expense while 
public transit systems slowly dete- 
riorate or are actively sabotaged by 
the petroleum industry. Gas costs 
less in the U.S. than any other na- 
tion not a member of OPEC. Cars 





have survived their current cushy 
and affordable status due only to 
incessant and subtle subsidization 
by a generally wealthy and placid 
culture. Now that said culture is 
breaking apart and its imposed so- 
cial calm evaporating, the private 
vehicle is being exposed as the di- 
nosaur it is. 

None of the remedies pro- 
posed to stem the tide of carjacking 
have much chance of success. 
High speed chases have resulted in 
an unacceptable number of acci- 
dental deaths. Suffer penalties are 
unlikely to deter the hopeless 
youth perpetrating such crimes. 
There are no "quick fixes" for the 
social ills that begat the atmos- 
phere in which carjacking cur- 
rently thrives. When the LAPD was 
televised pulling back from that 
disputed corner on Fairfax Ave- 
nue, they thought they were simply 
abandoning the ghetto. In retro- 
spect, one can see they were expos- 
ing the myth of the American 
automobile as well. 

- Kwazee Wabbit 

I Love What 
You Do For Ne 

While working in a building 
downtown I spotted an Earthday 
lobby display on, "What you can do 
to save the environment" which 
suggested, "Buy a fuel-efficient car 
and keep it tuned. Combine trips 
and drive as little as possible." Nice, 
but it falls short, and timidity has 
never saved the world. The only 
acceptable advice is,"don't drive. 

People say, "But I can't get 
around without a car." or, "My job 
requires that I drive." Bullshit. 
Granted, the present state of ab- 
surdity makes it hard to do without. 



Want ads for office Jobs read, 
"transportation required" but bicy- 
cles don't count. I even saw one a 
while ago for a counsellor to teach 
the handicapped to use public 
transit, car required. Ads praising 
mass transit are made by people 
who don't use it and transporta- 
tion officials are given official cars. 

Cars pollute the air. No amount 
of efficiency will change that. Alter- 
nate fuels are a variant of the effi- 
ciency scam. Making and disposing 
of batteries and generation of 
power for electric vehicles only dis- 
places the point of pollution. All 
the pollution of manufacture re- 

The post combustion oil waste 
that drips from cars is far more 
toxic than what we pump from the 
ground. No amount of tuning will 
stop all the leaks, and as long as 
private autos exist, home mechan- 
ics will pour waste oil down sewers, 
tainting huge amounts of ground 
water. Tens of thousands of people 
in America die every year in auto 
impacts. A recent study by UCLA 
confirms up to fifty percent reduc- 
tion in lung efficiency among peo- 
ple living amidst high pollution 

People say "Yes, all that's true, 
but millions of people do it. You 
not driving won't change any- 
thing." They're right, it won't; but 
it makes me not guilty. "Then you're 
a hypocrite. Trucks brought the 
food you eat, the clothes you wear." 
Sometimes a crafty light sparks in 
their eyes and they say trium- 
phantly, "But you use oil on your 
bike chain, don't you?" pinning me 
with guilt. But I'm not burning it, 
and besides, it's vegetable oil. (Oc- 
casionally someone brings up the 
metal and rubber in my bike; a 
valid comparison in which the hun- 
dred to one difference in weight 
does more damage to their cause 
than mine.) The truck thing is 
tough, because true. But if recog- 
nizing an evil and doing what I can 
to stop it while others blithely ig- 
nore the problem makes me a 

!»- ^ 

nil HOW 
7 A.M. -9 A.M. 
5 P.M. - 8 P.M. 

. Save Time, Ride a Bil(e! 

hypocrite, then I'm proud to be 
one. I don't like that my food is 
trucked hundreds of miles before I 
buy it, but the only other choice is 
to dry up and blow away and that 
won't do the Earth any good. 

I'm young and healthy, and 
have a young person's viewpoint. I 
can ride everywhere and not use 
gas, some can't. I use a bicycle be- 
cause it allows me to compete and 
win on the road against engines 
harnessing hundreds of times the 
.5 horsepower I can generate, but 
there are other ways not to drive. 
Granted, walking is an effort, and 
riding a bicycle in the polluted, 
sonic hell of our streets is intimidat- 
ing, and taking the bus is of course 
a thing poor and sweaty people do; 
but they are the right choices. If all 
good things took less effort, then it 
seems we would all be doing them 
already. Doing right has never 
been the easiest choice and no one 









•^¥ ^ 



© H #^ 





I respect has ever said that life was 
meant to be effortless. 

Cars have existed for less than 
a hundred years; people for hun- 
dreds of thousands. The great civi- 
lizations on which we base our 
culture lasted for thousands of 
years without the internal combus- 
tion engine. Even the Wheel, 
which we rank with Fire and Lan- 
guage as cornerstones of civiliza- 
tion, is trivial. The Pyramids were 
built without it. 

In your mind's eye, watch the 
detritus cluttering our world 
evaporate. Imagine your dead 
friend alive again and the scar 
where your teeth met the dash- 
board melt away. We don't live in a 
perfect world, but maybe we can 
make it so. Today, roads so cover 
the land that it is possible to live 
and die without ever touching the 
Earth until being buried in it. 
Imagine how much land would be 
freed if we peeled back the roads, 
tore up the parking lots, knocked 
down the distributorships and 
parts stores we no longer needed 
so the people once employed there 
could plant food. Then people 
could walk to where things grow 
and get food enough for them- 
selves, even enough for those too 
frail to make the trip, and it would 

be a pleasant stroll through gar- 

- Kash 

Critical nass 

"Critical Mass" is a bicycle ride 
(a.k.a. "Commute Clot") on San 
Francisco's Market Street on the 
last working Friday of every month. 
The first ride in September '92 
drew about 60 cyclists, while the 
Feb. '93 ride has grown to about 
250. Speaking for myself, I join 
this ride for several reasons. On 
one hand I just want to have fun 
riding my bike \vith other cyclists 
and see that we are not alone in 
trying to make bicycle commuting 
work in this city. I favor a radical 
change in the city's infrastructure 
wherein we would construct wild 
eco-corridors criss-crossing the 
city. Within these corridors would 
run restored creeks, various flora 
and fauna, and bike paths and 
walkways. "Normal" traJBFic would 
be rerouted around, under and 
over such eco-corridors. (Such in- 
frastructural changes, while radi- 
cal, are not sufficient in and of 
themselves either. We'll have to 
push for bike safety training in 
schools, driver's education about 

bikes, and a general transforma- 
tion of social priorities) . 

Just as important, this bike ride 
is a public space where real politics 
between real people can unfold - 
not that bogus electoral spectacle 
that passes for "politics" - politics 
about urban living, transportation. 
Green City-ism, work, and so on. 
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect 
to the first rides has been the nu- 
merous open discussions during 
and after them. 

One of the stickier issues exist- 
ing just beneath many "progres- 
sive" political views addresses the 
locus of political action. Should it 
be at the point of consumption or 
the point of production? My bias 
is strongly toward the latter. This 
has become an issue on the Critical 
Mass rides because a number of 
people put a lot of effort into yell- 
ing at people in cars, urging them 
to abandon the auto, often using 
language heavily laden with g^ilt- 

We can count on a certain 
amount of verbal violence and abu- 
sive behavior from some drivers 
any time we take to the street en 
masse. But if our goal is to promote 
bicycling as a superior form of tran- 
sit it makes littie sense to turn our 
bikes into barricades and use them 
to block people getting through to 
their destinations. Such actions 
are even more self-defeating and 
absurd when they are com- 
pounded by a primitive moralism 
that insists that anyone in a car is 
somehow the "enemy," that we bi- 
cyclists are inherentiy morally su- 
perior, and that the car-bound 
must "see the light" and join us or 
else remain lazy, greedy barbarians 
and immoral savages worthy of our 
scorn and our own forms of abu- 
sive behavior. 

It just ain't that simple. The 
vast majority of motorists are 
locked in to a whole series of un- 
pleasant compromises, from the 
work they do to the food they eat 
and the recreation they pursue, 
pST UKE US!! We do not freely 




'^ - - 

"choose" the pathetic options left 
to us in this world, they are chosen 
for us by investment and produc- 
tion decisions made by the captains 
of industry, the world market, and 
the stooges occupying govern- 
ments who serve those interests. 
Granted, we do create this absurd 
world every day with the work we 
do. Granted, some of us find ways 
to lessen our personal tax on the 
planet by making better decisions 
about personal transportation and 
consumption. But it is a great fal- 
lacy of contemporary "progressive" 
politics that we can shop our way to 
freedom! Finally, our individual 
consumption choices are not the 
most significant way we contribute 
to the ongoing ecological catastro- 
phe. If we are personally responsi- 
ble at all, it is primarily through our 
individual acquiescence to a social 
system that depends on our impo- 
tent acceptance of other people's 
decisions about what we do, how we 
do it, and to what end. And it is at 
work, regardless of our specific 
jobs, that we relinquish control of 
the aggregate decisions in society 
that determine what kinds of 
choices we can make zis individuals. 
I know many people disagree 
with this, and are busy pursuing 
their 50 things to save the planet, 
getting centered and in touch with 
themselves, etc.. Life is such a mess, 
and politics is so (rightly) discred- 
ited, that we feel helpless to change 
the big picture. The best many of 
us feel we can do is to get our own 
house in order, walk as softiy as we 
individually can, and so on. But as 
two decades of New Age-ism has 
shown, capitalism is unique in its 
capability to turn the best personal 
intentions into new products, slo- 
gans, and marketing campaigns, 
and when you stop to take a look at 
the "paradigm shift" that some 
claim is already inevitably under- 
way, all you find is new packaging, 
new stock options, and more 
homeless, misery, toxic shit, and 
barbaric wars than ever. 


Our Critical Mass should be 
critical! We won't gain friends and 
newcomers, especially ex-motor- 
ists, by guilt-tripping. Our purpose 
in publicly riding home together 
should be to demonstrate the supe- 
riority of our way of transit, that we 
have a right to radically improved 
conditions, and most importandy, 
we have to show people that IT'S 
MORE FUN!! Staging punitive, 
moralistic blockades is hardly a way 
to demonstrate the ease and pleas- 
ure of bicycling. A rolling party of 
several hundred friendly and jubi- 
lant bicyclists, on the other hand, 
is a powerful statement to even the 
most impatient and jaded ob- 
server, and is way more fun to par- 
ticipate in as well! 

Pleasure is our best selling 
point. We should turn this into a 
rolling Carnaval with costumes, 
music and cacophonous noise and 
messages. Everyone should feel 
free to create and distribute litera- 
ture among riders and bystanders. 
And if we ever get hassled by peo- 
ple, either irate motorists, pedestri- 
ans or the cops, our best strategy is 
to smile and melt away. We are a 
guerrilla army fighting an invisible 
war with trick weapons. Any time 
we face a real battie over a specific 
place or space, let us stage a tactical 
retreat and return another day to 
fight again! Mobility is our means ^ . 
and goal, let's use it! See you at the V ^ 
next ride! 

- Chris Carlsson 



«^ ^ 



In the large peach-colored room 
of the recently remodeled em- 
ployment office, beneath a 
framed print of a Monet waterlily, 
Lopo Ramu*ez answered every ques- 
tion put to him by a tired clerk who 
that day had already interviewed 
several fishmongers. The Natural 
Fish over in Berkeley needed a new 
man and they didn't want union. 
The clerk leaned across his glass top 
desk to hand Lopo Ramirez a blank 

"Whatever I've done for a living," 
Lopo Ramirez said sadly as he reached 
for the form, "after a while, I find myself 
having to do something else." 

During the last several years that the 
clerk worked in personnel, job tran- 
siency had become a commonplace 
though unpleasant pattern in anyone's 
career. "We see many clients with simi- 
larjob histories, Mr. Ramirez," the clerk 
commented disinterestedly. 

Lopo Ramirez smiled, his dark 
milky eyes seeking a focus. It had been 
established in the early moments of the 
interview that Ramirez and the clerk 
shared common origins. The clerk was 
fluent in Ramirez' native language. But 
then he demurred, switching back to 
English with a slight defensiveness, sud- 
denly remembering instructions from a 
training program he'd attended: Keep 
applicant at a polite distance. Using Eng- 
lish, he made clear in a tone that rein- 
forced his remove that it Wcis his parents 
who came from the same country as 
Lopo Ramirez. But Lopo Ramirez 
spoke plaintively with his eyes, enor- 
mous soft pools that begged for an ad- 
vocate. Let me tell you my story, they 
said, just give me your permission not 
even your enthusiasm. 

The day was waning. The amber 
light of late autumn seeped into the 
room through the half-turned blinds, 
casting shadows on the leaves of a large 
tropical plant next to the men. There 
were no other interviews scheduled. As 

Lopo Ramirez bowed his head slighdy, 
the clerk fingered a pen and suppressed 
a yawn, which made the veins in his 
otherwise unlined forehead protrude. 

"Back home, I used to fish, sir. I used 
to fish professionally, you know, and I 
stank. Forgive my frankness, sir. Every 
day I came home stinking, bits of fish 
scales stuck to my pants, threads of sea- 
weed wrapped around my ankles. But I 
was young, my life was my own, and the 
bay was mine and the waters were warm. 
And I hadn't the usual impatience of 
youth, I was good with the nets, good 
with the flounder. But I stank. The smell 
of fish stained my fingers, it settied be- 
neath my skin and I couldn't get rid of 
it. I wished I didn't stink. Believe me, I 
wished I could fish and not stink. 

"Rosalora said she'd marry me if I 
quit. I quit. Then we moved to America. 

"One thing led to another, as it al- 
ways does. 

"Now sir, my shirt has been starched 
for years, my aiftershave is still strong 
after a long day, Rosalora doesn't com- 
plain. And after all that's happened, 
what do I know best but fish? Granted, 
selling fish is different than catching 
fish, but I'm worthy sir, I know the parts 
of a fish better than the parts of speech. 
And I'm experienced at standing." 

How upset I was all 

day, not because of 

what happened later, 

but because my 
dream didn't come to 

my rescue! Dreams 

have been that for me 

often, warnings that I 

don't pay attention to 

until it's too late. 

How quaindy Ramirez phrased his 
appeal, the clerk mused. Twenty years 
ago this guy stuck a fishing pole out of 
a rowboat and now he thinks he can 
compete with kids half his age? Oh but 
these peasants are so naive when they 
try to sell themselves. 

"Make sure you note your previous 
experience on the application, all 
right?" The clerk's smile froze as he 
pointed to the appropriate blanks. 

"Let me tell you sir," Lopo Ramirez 
insisted, "how I've incorporated my 
knowledge offish with my great skill in 
standing. And how the two should qual- 
ify me for the very job you offer. With 

"But I don't have thejob. I mean..." 
interjected the clerk, now irritated. He 
leaned across the desk, pointing again 
to the application. As the pitch of his 
voice rose, his hand shook slighdy. Frus- 
trated, then composing himself, he 
switched to Ramirez' native language. 

"Mr. Ramirez. You don't under- 
stand. I screen applicants for compa- 
nies, I don't own the fish market." 

"I understand completely," Mr. 
Ramirez replied confidendy in his na- 
tive language. The clerk sat back up 
straight in his chair, adjusting his 
glasses. "With all due respect, sir, I'm 
not ignorant. I am a patient man. I am 
a man who is skilled at waiting and 
watching. In my last job, I used to stand 
along the walls of a giant atrium in the 
middle of a museum and watch a twelve 
foot circle of white rocks. Would you 
like to know about the Chalk Circle?" 

Now the clerk sighed noticeably and 
could no longer suppress his fatigue. 
He sank into his seat, listlessly. He 
glanced at the hands of the pale aqua 
clock next to the waterlily print, de- 
cided to allow the rhythm of Ramirez* 
story lull him until it was time to go 

White walls, grey trim, pale grey 
marble floors. Footsteps, brief whispers 
at the threshold. Clicking of the claws 
of blackbirds, pigeons landing on the 
skylight - these were part of the instal- 
lation I was hired to watch. And part of 





my days, which were installations in 
time. I watched them, as I once watched 
the sea, which taught me how. 

Visitors often saw me as part of the 
installation. Imagine! A young woman 
dressed in black leather is leaning 
against the wall opposite me, close to 
the Chalk Circle, taking notes. Her face 
is fair, her lips red and shiny like var- 
nish. She stares at me across the giant 
room, pretending to observe the instal- 
lation, then she scribbles, her hair falls 
in front of her eyes, she sweeps it back, 
looks up at me again, returns to her 
notebook. She's noticed how small I 
am, how grey my hair has become, how 
dark my skin is, how I look like a hun- 
dred other men working in similar jobs. 

She knows nothing about me yet she 
pities me. She thinks, how boring to 
have to stand there all day wearing a 
green suit and a badge! To her I am a 
dead end. She walks on to the colorful 
abstractions in the next gallery. 

The rocks of the Chalk Circle were 
one layer deep, piled about eight inches 
high, all relatively uniform chunks, 
each perhaps six inches in diameter. 

I feel I knew every rock or I didn't 
know any at all. 

It was the light that descended from 
the glass panels of the atrium that gave 
me confidence or not. With the fish, it 
was the same, the light from the heav- 
ens on the waters, making them opaque 
or transparent. 

I wasn't permitted to read while on 
duty, I could only walk around the 
room, straighten my tie, feel my wallet 
in my pocket, stand against a wall, bend 
my legs, gaze into the vents along the 
opposite wall, watch the hands of my 
watch, watch the Chalk Circle, and the 
visitors. My days were full and I hardly 
noticed them passing. 

For ten minutes every couple of 
hours, I was relieved by another guard. 
Because my English was poor, I ap- 
peared shy and ignorant, I was hired to 
do nothing all day but pay attention, 
and that served my employers who se- 
credy believed I came from a stupid 
country. But really, I didn't mind what 
they thought, for they didn't treat me 
according to their thoughts. 

Every night after the museum 
closed, the dust from the chalk had to 
be swept back into the circle. This was 
my favorite part of the job. 

Once I told my supervisor that 
sweeping the dust into a black dustpan 
and carefully sprinkling it among the 
rocks was the moment I looked forward 

to every day. 

My supervisor said he had to laugh. 
"You're a nut, Ramirez. How can you 
stand this job? You wetbacks have the 
simplest minds on earth. You just know 
you're almost out the door when you 
clean up. Listen, Ramirez, you don't 
have to brown nose me. Get iti* Ha ha." 

But my supervisor misunderstood 
the pleasure of my work, and though he 
was fair to me, we weren't friends on the 
outside because he belittied the work 
we did and mocked the visitors. When 
he spoke, I felt his gloom surround me 
like a fog and chill. Rosa told me, when 
that happens, Lopo, put your right 
hand over your stomach, over your belly 
button, Lopo, so his bad feelings can't 
enter you. Sometimes I did this if I 
joined him for a beer at night, but drink 
only increased his resentment 

He would make obscenejokes about 
the Chalk Circle, about the wall sculp- 
ture I usually stood next to, about an- 
other piece across the room, a large 
steel tube called "Distance No Object." 
No matter how close you got to this 
tube, it looked far away. I had a certain 
fondness for it, though really, it was a 
predictable trick next to my Chalk Cir- 

My supervisor said people were kid- 
ding themselves. He said art's not what 
it used to be. He said he'd worked at the 
museum ten years, so he supposed he 
knew something. I knew nothing about 
art, only about the Chalk Circle. 

What did art used to be? I don't 
think I could 've guarded the Mona Lisa 
all day, I really don't. Could you? I think 
her smile would sour after a while. I 
think I understand why kids draw those 
mustaches on cheap reproductions of 
her, to perk her up. 

The chalk rocks were so very white. 
Some people thought they were cold. 
But to me, cold is San Francisco, where 
the sailboats float on a bay you can't 
swim in, where you go to an ocean you 
can only look at It's so cold in the 
summer that one year I wore a turtie- 
neck to work for a month! Sometimes if 
it's damp and windy, I don't even feel 
like looking out of the corner of my eye. 
If it was cold like that, I would stand 
where I could watch the rocks straight 
on. They gave off heat sometimes, like 
armies, like the ocean of my country. Or 
they appeared melancholy. Some days 
they even looked like tall elegant 
women dressed in black. 

They depended on light. In the 
right light, white can look black, you 


One day the artist of the Chalk Cir- 
cle appeared in the atrium, standing 
away from it with two curators. Then the 
artist decided to donate the Chalk Cir- 
cle to the museum. This made the cura- 
tors very happy, now they wouldn'thave 
to convince the director to buy it. I was 
overjoyed at the news! When the exhi- 
bition was over, the museum would have 
to store the Chalk Circle. They would 
have to put the pieces into cardboard 
boxes with exact instructions to set 
them up again. I, Lopo Ramirez, 
wanted to stand watch over the boxes. 
After all, I knew those rocks better than 
anyone. I knew their moods and they 
knew mine. I could even read a book 
while I was guarding the rocks, because 
few people besides museum personnel 
use the archives. Oh, I thought, then I 
could have a long beach of time before 
me every day. 

But another guard, Perez, already 
had thejob of watching the archives. He 
said it was lonely work, a long shift and 
hardly anyone to talk to or look at As 
for me, I had seen enough people, the 
startied expressions on their faces as 
they entered the atrium. Most were too 
reserved to laugh, but you can tell when 
a person wants to and doesn't 

They didn't think my Chalk Circle 
was anything, some of them. 

Some didn't question what it was, 
since it was there. 

Most just walked through, never 
thought about it again. 

But I had to live with the Chalk 
Circle, I had to look at it and I tell you, 
it was God. 

I stared at that circle of rocks for 
months and I should also tell you, I was 
never a believer before it arrived. 

One night I dreamt I had fallen 
asleep standing. I went to work the next 
morning and I actually fell asleep stand- 
ing. Not from boredom, from fatigue. 
From practicing English verbs over and 
over, silendy to myself, leaning against 
the wall in front of the Chalk Circle. In 
the dream, words floated by on index 
cards, parts of words, speaking in their 
own voices, fluttering away before I 
could pronounce them. Repeat after 
me, a word shouted, repeat after 
us.. .they cried as they disappeared... 

How upset I was all day, not because 
of what happened later, but because my 
dream didn't come to my rescue! 
Dreams have been that for me often, 
warnings that I don't pay attention to 
until it's too late. 



"Ramirez," somebody was shaking 
me. Through the triangle of a woman's 
bare legs I could see my chalk circle way 
across the room. A fuzzy view of it, 
smaller, more horizontal. 

"Ramirez, you must have passed 

Aldo, my relief man, stood by me so 
close I could count his mustache hairs. 

"Ramirez, get up, what's with you? 

"No, I must have dropped off and 
slid down." 

"You hurt anything?" 

"Don't think so." 

"Well, amigo, you been to your 
locker yet?" 

For a moment I couldn't connect 
my dream and my falling asleep on the 
job with something he called "locker." 
Sometimes the meaning of English 
words is delayed for me, as though sev- 
eral people were talking over an echoey 
loudspeaker, the sounds take time to 
reach me. 

"Your locker, man. Check it out. 
You've got a nice present wrapped up in 
litde yellow envelope, just like the rest 
of us." 

The layoff notice did not faze me for 
several days. I tucked it into my shirt 
pocket, straightened my tie, and went 
back to my post. Later, when I put it on 
the kitchen table, Rosa glanced at it, 
and left it under the salt shaker. It 
wasn't news. We all anticipated losing 
our jobs. A few weeks earlier, the mu- 
seum decided to contract out with a 
private security guard company, for a 
dollar an hour less. The choice was, 
accept less, no protection, no griev- 
ance, no benefits. Or accept notiiing. 
Two guards quit the union then, but 
even my supervisor knew there was no 
choice for us. 

Who would take our jobs? People 
newly arrived from my country, I guess, 
people who travelled a long ways to find 
a piece of future. All they wanted was to 
leave their misery behind. Distance was 
no object to them. People with fire- 
works in their heads, big ideas, young 
dreams. But no one who would appre- 
ciate the Chalk Circle like I did. 

The union settied on a littie sever- 
ance pay and the last week on the job, I 
helped the curators disassemble the 
Chalk Circle. I wrapped tissue paper 
around each rock, placed the pieces 
into file boxes, labeled each box. The 
curators were friendly, in their way, 
sorry I wouldn't be staying on, but 
didn't know how to get personal, or 

didn't want to. They never asked any- 
thing about me, where I came from, 
what I did back home. Did they assume 
the least of me? I never volunteered 
anything. They understood I knew the 
rocks well. And of course, as I picked 
each one up, held it, turned it around, 
why, I discovered for the first time that 
each piece had a different side I'd never 
noticed before, and every rock its own 
patterns. Variegated striations, one cu- 
rator said. 

For a few weeks, I joined the picket 
line outside the museum. It was a rag 
tag crew, four or five unemployed secu- 
rity guards and a few homeless men the 
union hired to pad the ranks, marching 
around in a small circle, singing sad 
union songs. 

A few photographers stopped to 
take pictures, and sometimes a young 
person would lean against a stone pillar 
and give us the peace sign. 

"Ramirez," one of the curators I es- 
pecially liked called out the first morn- 
ing. "I'm sorry. Normally I wouldn't 
cross a picket line, but I've got so much 
work, you know.. .I've got to help hang 
that big Salgado show, I..." 

"It's okay, Mr. Phillips, it's okay, 
we're out here to stop visitors, not work- 
ers. Hey, say hello to 'Distance No Ob- 
ject' for me, Mr. Phillips." 

"What's that Ramirez?" Mr. Phillips 
shouted back, as he pulled open the 
heavy brass door and disappeared into 
the lobby. 

The pale aqua clock on the wall of 
the employment office struck five, and 
as the clerk stood up, he closed the file 
in front of him and straightened his 
glasses with both hands. "Thank you for 
coming in, Mr. Ramirez. We'll be sure 
to call if the fish market wants an inter- 

Lopo Ramirez also stood up and 
held out his hand to shake the clerk's. 
The clerk did not notice as he turned 
from his desk to switch off the lights. 

- Gloria Frym 
Gloria Frym 's new book is How I Learned (Cof- 
fee House Press) 




These seem papers 
singed by fire 
- documents left scattered 
in a hectic retreat of 
battalion headquarters 
or the abandoned records 
of an overthrown regime 

Fear and pain 

shimmer over the disorganized pages 

hover above the words scratched along the slots 

lined onto the white surface 

And rage 

flares in the ink 

deposited frantically here 

It is anger that matches my own 

knuckle to knuckle 

as I read the words 

as my red pen 

descends toward its victims 

toward what is written 

Once more 

I have failed 

to convince, to inform 

to teach 

So I hold their fury 

stacks of it 

sheets of it 

and press down on theirs 

with my own 

How did literature 
become so filled 
with hate? 

Document your sources correctly 
the red nib admonishes 
You must provide examples 
to show what you mean 

The blue paragraphs 




They contrive havoc in the shipyard, every day. 

We're just out here rolling, setting up 

Three rounds and a sound. 

Now they make us make our brothers 

Step down, and down again. 

Sonny Hammett fi-om Fayette County: 

You left a grieving widow, Judith 

Tried to stop you. 

You found Misters Abbott and Gabelt 

hi the Quality Control Office and 

Punched a sightiess, bloodshot eye 

In their foreheads. 

Just like Roger the Dodger used to say: 

They're cooking up new recipes. 

Some of you will float to the top 

And some, like sludge, drift to the bottom. 

And some will just evaporate 

Carried off by the steam rising up 

From the bowels of the bank. 

Uncooperative radical particle I 

Stick to my guns like glue. 

Defensive readiness is at a very high premium. 

If only they had marked us all 

Not just one 

We could play defense as a team 

And all of us would be captains. 

— Blair Ewing 

No one is listening 

—Tom Wayman 




Content with becoming unlike 
the sea, he denies the past 
and dust, puts in 
long hours in an office. Yet 

here, or nowhere, there are laws 

chisels convinced stone of 

and the storied mist, 

beard ofancestor and beast. And what 

but Where is Once or When? 
would he expect them to demand 
had they not as children known 
whose fallen hand was raising them? 

- Harry Brody 


I'd like to apply for a job. 
Yes, the job you have available; 
my manner is most saleable 
and I hope youll find me suitable 
for $5.15 an hour. 

I really have the skills, you see, 

I've been to university 

and though I studied history 

I've found my heart to truly be 

in men's ties and socks/glass figurines/the discount shoe industry 

What makes me think I'd be good for this job? 

um, I love working with people. 

...and I love riding the subway an hour and a half each wajr; 

lef s see, add those hours to my day 

and 111 be making a whopping $3.75 an hour! 

oh, no -sir- I do want the job. Can't you tell by my suit' 

No, actually, I don't own a dress; 

I don't feel comfortable, I confess. 

But hell, 

for $5.15 an hour 

I'll endeavor to wear some colors other than black- 

um, I enjoy working with the public, and I'm good with money... 

Oh yes, you're right 

all us girls are good with money - 

yes, thaf s charming, yes, how funny. 

You know, I like a good work atmosphere 

where the boss says whatever he wants 

and the rest of us just listen... 

I'm a very fast learner 

and I promise that if you give me this job 

111 be the perfect subhuman 

and never let my contempt shine in my worshipping eyes! 

I love working with people, 

and lef s see - what else was I going to tell you? 

No, I don't expect vacation pay 
and yes, I'm available every day 
and though I don't like the evil way 
you're looking at me, I've got rent to pay. 
And yes, I can start on Saturday. 

- © Meryn Cadell 1991 

from the Sire/Reprise album ANGEL POOD PORTHOIXJHT 

Photo: D.S. Black 




Soon after I began training as a 
psychotherapist, I knew that I 
was going to have a major 
problem with Faith. I hoped that 
these doubts would fade, that my 
initial cynical mistrust of what 
seemed like self-serving, made-up 
gibberish would soon be challenged 
by the irrefutable (or at least plausi- 
ble) evidence of Science and direct 
experience. Alas, it only got worse 
as I went along. 

Upon close examination the bi- 
zarre, competing theories of psycho- 
therapy turned out to be even cheesier 
than they looked from a distance. The 
empirical data was just as damning; no 
reputable researcher has ever managed 
to document much significant benefit 
from head-shrinking. And my personzil 
experience, as a properly trained and 
well-respected therapist, only con- 
firmed my initial impression that the 
vast majority of psychotherapy is a waste 
of time, equally likely to harm as to 

Back when I'd first considered the 
Profession it seemed uniquely attrac- 
tive. Sitting at my desk at my clericaljob, 
which I'd held for nearly three years at 
that point (a "personal best" in my oc- 

Anything that didn't 
drive the patients to 

suicide or litigation 
was acceptable. The 

"standard of care" 
was so low that just 

about anyone not 

actively hallucinating 

can meet it. 

cupational history), I'd had plenty of 
time to contemplate the meaningless 
quality of most Work, and especially of 
my particular work. In fact, that was the 
period of my life when I first consciously 
embraced my Bad Attitude. Previously 
I'd simply avoided and ignored the phe- 
nomenon of Work as much as I could in 
a naive, unthinking way, without ever 
truly coming to grips with it. 

There were a number of purely 
pragmatic and practical advantages to 
Becoming a Psychotherapist. Qualify- 
ing for The Profession required (at 
least) four years of graduate school, or 
from my perspective, that much more 
heavily subsidized prolonged adoles- 
cence and absence from the full-time 
workforce. Thus, craftily, I committed 
to ending my career of perpetual post- 
ponement by taking just one, last half- 
decade detour. For me, at least. School 
was fun as well as meaningful, in stark 
contrast to my current situation which 
was neither. 

It was also prestigious, and would 
delight my bourgeois relatives (who 
found my career up to then somewhat 
disappointing) and piss the hell out of 
my boss, to say nothing of boosting my 
own self-esteem as I ascended from 
lowly clerk to haughty, intellectual "pro- 

Finally, while I was still far from shar- 
ing the consumerist aspirations of the 
vast mzyority of my peers, I was begin- 
ning to feel the allure of a comfortable, 
middle<lass existence. If I absolutely 
had to work to support myself I might 
as well have a cushyjob that, at its basic 
level, amounted to sitting around and 
talking to people and telling them how 
to run their lives better. Frankly, I felt I 
had some natural talents in this direc- 

I still think I do, but I've given up on 
the notion of shrinking heads for a liv- 
ing. I've also surrendered to the pain- 
ftilly obvious fact that Psychotherapy is 
most certainly no "Science" (though it 

may qualify as an "Art") and is a sad 
species of Profession, offering litde of 
value in return for its amazingly steep 
fees. Overall I would judge it as valid, 
helpfial and consistent a practice as the 
fortune-telling done by the brujas who 
run litde botanicas in marginal urban 
neighborhoods across the U.S.: the cus- 
tomers are satisfied and keep coming 
back, but it's difficult for the rest of us 
to detect any true benefits from these 
questionable ministrations. 

Declining health due to AIDS gave 
me a good excuse to retire from the 
field after only a few years as a proces- 
sional psychotherapist. In fact, counsel- 
ing is an easy profession for a 
fatigue-disabled person (after all, you 
get to sit the whole time and can limit 
your client load to match your energy 
level); but I had no stomach for it. If my 
time were limited, as it pretty much 
seems to be, did I really want to spend 
my precious hours listening to people 
whine and rationalize about why they 
had to live their lives exactiy as they 
were, despite how miserable it was mak- 
ing them? 

Viewed from that cold, harsh per- 
spective, the answer was clearly "no," 
and so I retired, not quite seven years 
after I'd started. 


Reagan was just beginning his sec- 
ond term (1984) when I entered gradu- 
ate school. I was one of a cohort of seven 
neophytes being initiated into the 
Counseling Psychology program, a sub- 
group of the department's crop of 30 or 
so first-year graduate students. About a 
dozen or so more were students in Clini- 
cal Psychology - the differences be- 
tween "Counseling" and "Clinical" 
Psychology were endlessly debated but 
are, for all intents and purposes, non- 
existent, having more to do with aca- 
demic turf division than anything else. 
The remaining Psych grad students 


TWISTED IMA GE *>> AceBackwords © .g^s r*'^) 


Fhow po vou like mV 




were in the "Experimental" (i.e., non- 
clinical, research oriented) program. 

But Experimental, Counseling or 
Clinical, we were all selected for our 
promise as academics and researchers, 
rather than for clinical skills potential 
and this showed. It was well-known that 
expressing any interest in the profes- 
sional practice of psychotherapy was the 
kiss of death as far as getting accepted 
into programs like ours at large, cheap 
state universities, which (mosdy) sup- 
ported you while providing training as 
a clinician. There are also urban profes- 
sional schools, but these are upscale 
private institutions along the lines of 
law and business schools, charging top 
dollar in return for the prospect of easy 
entry into profitable guild, providing 
"meaningful" work. 

Few of us were really interested in 
becoming academics or researchers 
and we mosdy had our hearts set on 
Becoming Therapists, but we were all 
savvy enough to figure on concealing 
this for the next four years. 

In line with this largely inaccurate 
assumption that we were all primarily 
motivated as researchers, the bulk of 
our classwork focused on statistics and 
a review of the relevant body of research 
on clinical psychology, rather than on 
clinical skills - not, but the way, that 
these can really be taught, but it was 
distressing to see them dismissed so eas- 
ily. The statistics were boring. The re- 
search was horrifying in its revelation of 
psychotherapy's emptiness, at least as 
regards empirical evidence. The clini- 
cal skills stuff, when we finally got 
around to it, was fun but worrisome. 

We began by doing role plays, acting 
out the part of shrinker and shrinkee 
and practicing the basic therapeutic 

techniques: simple reflective state- 
ments and reframings ("It sounds like 
you feel that your boyfriend is a psy- 
chotic, abusive creep and you're won- 
dering what you should do about it") 
It was spooky how much shallow inter- 
actions sounded like "real" psychother- 

Then, in our second semester, we 
graduated to working on live clients, 
depressed freshmen who'd reported to 
the university counseling center and 
been turned over to us as guinea pigs. 
Therapy is one of those things that can 
only be learned by doing. Sessions were 
taped and presumably reviewed by su- 
pervisors, though in practice (as I 
learned as a fourth year student, when 
I provided such supervision to the fresh 
crop of neophytes) this uninteresting 
chore was often sloughed over; it was 
enough that you knew that someone 
COULD be listening to your efforts. 

As we progressed, we received more 
advanced clients, seriously flipped-out 
seniors instead of just homesick fresh- 
men. You were expected to justify all 
interventions by one of the half-dozen 
or so generally accepted competing 
theories of therapy (e.g. psychoanalytic, 
humanistic, or rational-emotive [isn't 
that an oxymoron?] approaches) , but it 
really didn't matter too much which 
you used. Anything that didn't drive the 
patients to suicide or htigation was ac- 

In our later years, we did internships 
at local mental health centers and agen- 
cies. If you were a good finangler or 
kissed the right butts, you could get one 
that actually paid money. Otherwise you 
had to do unpaid therapy as part of 
paying your dues and logging your 
hours. There was no serious attempt to 

evaluate the effectiveness of your work, 
as the standards of practice were broad 
and lenient. Only the most blatandy 
and monumentally incompetent thera- 
pists ever had any trouble getting by- 
and even those ended up getting their 
degrees (and, subsequendy, jobs) with- 
out too much trouble. The "standard of 
care" is so low that just about anyone 
not actively hallucinating can meet it. 


An ironic thing about head-shrink- 
ing, a phenomenon that illustrates its 
paradoxical nature, is that the more 
dangerous, useful and necessary your 
work, the less it pays and the less train- 
ing it requires. Most suicide prevention 
hodines are staffed by unpaid volun- 
teers. Looking after dangerously psy- 
chotic people in a halfway house 
requires only a high school diploma 
and pays little above minimum wage. 
Doing essentially the same work in a 
high-security private psych hospital 
(like the multitudinous Barclay's 
chain) usually requires a 2-year degree, 
but pays like a medium-scale union job. 
Many of these "Psych Techs" are on 
exactly the same anti-hallucination 
meds as their "clients" (but, presum- 
ably, are responding more effectively to 

Doing field work to prevent child 
abuse, ostensibly one of our nation's 
sacred duties and highest priorities, is 
poorly paid and often acutely danger- 
ous. Child protection workers in rural 
areas have a high mortality rate because 
of trigger-happy backwoods molesters 
with no patience for the Law's endless 
quibbles about age of consent and de- 
grees of consanguity. Often counselors' 


only training is an advanced home ec or 
"mental hygiene" class in high school; 
accordingly, the job tends to pay small 
town librarian's wages, maybe $15,000 
per year. But a dozen years down the 
road, counseling the wounded "Inner 
Child" that (presumably results) from 
such early abuse easily pays $100 an 

A shrink who focuses on traditional 
psychotherapy (i.e. hour-long weekly 
meeting for perhaps many years [or 
even decades] vsdth high-functioning, 
well-paid but slightiy neurotic yuppies) 
can hope to earn close to a hundred 
thousand dollars with a decent practice. 
To do this safe and well-paid work re- 
quires, oddly, several years' training and 
numerous degrees, licenses, and cre- 

This rule of inverse effort holds 
across the board in the The Profession 
with logarithmic consistency. An agency 
therapist, like the staff at a Counseling 
Center, gets the stability of a regular 
wage and benefits but earns half of what 
s/he'd make with a good practice. To{>- 
line therapists can hold lucrative train- 
ing seminars, or even found new 
theoretical schools of psychotherapy. 
This is well-paid, prestigious and re- 
warding work: it also removes you from 
direct contact vnth those whiny, de- 
manding clients. 


There are three things that keep 
Psychotherapy from becoming a worth- 
while profession. They are: the pseudo- 
scientific system of training; the 
potential shrinks who present them- 
selves for this training; and the clients 
who indiscriminately patronize these 
"helpers" who seem mostly to help 

The ability to read someone's vibes, 
to detect phoniness and the lurking, 
evil glint of psychotic madness, is to 
some extent an inborn skill. You got it 
or you don't; and as with learning to 
draw or sculpt or play music, natural 
abilities can be enhanced (or disfig- 
ured) but not created out of nothing. 
Contemporary psychology, determined 
as it is to assert its full status as a Science 
rather than a mere Art, refuses to ac- 
knowledge this. Thus it shuns its proper 
- and do-able - task of weeding out 
the deadheads and fine-tuning the 
naturals, instead opting to teach all and 
sundry a rigid and largely ineffective 
psychometric technology. 

A true Art of psychotherapy would 
put much more emphasis by selection 
of both shrinks and shrinkees, use a 
more pragmatic and practical teaching 
approach, and critically evaluate results 
stricdy on the basis of clinical effective- 
ness. Currentiy most therapists are cre- 
dentialed on the basis of academic 
achievement (e.g. passing classes, writ- 
ing these, etc.) and evaluated just once 
in their careers - at licensing time - 
by their score on a written test. Existing 
technology would permit performance- 
based testing, but the gatekeepers of 
The Profession are painftilly aware that 
the majority of its established, creden- 
tialed, high-ranking practitioners could 
not pass such an exam. 

Then there is the question of who 
wants to become a shrink, and why. I 
described my own frankly self-inter- 
ested motives above. They may seem 
mercenary or tangential, but people 
whose primary drive is to Help are usu- 
ally lousy therapists, ranging from 
merely ineffectual to actively destruc- 
tive. I call them the "Helping Vam- 
pires." They long to rescue the world, to 
bond with the confused and downtrod- 
den, to straighten out the disordered 
lives of their hapless clients by their ovm 
sage advice and moral vigor. Crazies 
often really cotton to them, which 
sometimes gives them a deceptive aura 
of competence; but they mosdy exacer- 
bate their helpee's symptoms until they 
blow up, at which point the Helping 
Vampire dumps them on a competent 
colleague or into whatever safety net 
offers itself. 

Finally, there are the clients. Some 
are people in crisis, briefly disoriented 
and wanting help to get back on an even 
keel but basically sound. Motivated and 
competent, they are easy to work with, 
quickly identify and resolve the issues 
that brought them to therapy, and move 

Most clients, however, are chroni- 
cally afflicted long-term neurotics who 
only want an hour to complain and carp 
v^dthout fear of contradiction. They will 
pay for this; most of them have to, as 
their friends certainly won't listen to 
this stuff for free. They seem to have no 
center, let alone any central issues, and 
are content to stay "In Therapy" indefi- 

Thus these chronics and lifers natu- 
rally tend to dominate the market by 
lingering in it forever, while the acute- 
crisis short-termers pass swiftiy through 
it. Mediocre therapists soon learn to 

cultivate clients who can be sold on 
endless re-living of early experiences 
and Healing the Inner Child. 

Sigmund Freud, the great Viennese 
inventor of "the talking cure," would be 
horrified by contemporary professional 
psychology as practiced in the U.S. Even 
in the '30s, he damned the easy-minded 
blandness of American psychiatry. 

But contemporary psychoanalysts, 
the direct descendants of Freud, arejust 
as kooky; what's more, they're generally 
politically conservative, impossibly rigid 
and frankly exploitative. True psycho- 
analysis requires at least five years of 
meeting three times a week. It could 
take more if you express too much "re- 
sistance." To be admitted to the official 
psychoanalytic society, you must have 
successfully completed analysis with 
someone who was shrunk himself in 
direct link back to Freud himself, as if 
this confered some spiritual or mystical 
immunity upon the shinkee. 

If this requirement is consciously 
based upon the "touch of Peter" 
(whereby each new pope is sworn in by 
a cardinal who was sworn in by a pope, 
etc., in a direct line back to St. Peter, the 
founder of the Vatican's authority), it is 
horrifyingly reactionary. And if it's not, 
you have to wonder how such insightful 
introspectors as the successors to Freud 
could have overlooked the similarity. In 
any case, such requirements reflect su- 
perstitious and magical thinking ad- 
mixed with a blatant self-interesL 


The U.S. has more shrinks per cap- 
ita (depending on how you define the 
term: I'm counting everyone who 
claims to provide "counseling") than 
any other country. Psychotherapy is far 
less common in Europe, even less popu- 
lar in Latin America, and almost un- 
heard of in Africa and Asia. 

Thus, everywhere outside of North 
America and Western Europe, the role 
of "counselor" is taken by family or spiri- 
tual advisors, paid or otherwise. North 
America needs more shrinks because it 
has so much less emotional infrastruc- 

Lacking meaningful relationships 
with those around them, many people 
vainly seek attachment and identity in 
unusual and rather unpromising 
places. Thus churches, cults and coun- 
selors flourish. Just as much of our proc- 
essed, packaged supermarket food is so 
drained of genuine nutritive value as it 



Graphic: JF Batallier 

travels from its source to the market 
that it needs to have vitamins and min- 
erals re-added, so are our lives drained 
of meaning by our processing until 
many are driven to seek re-injections of 
Meaning via Therapy. 

According to the research done by 
scientists attempting to verify the bene- 
fits of psychotherapy, it is the least cost- 
efficient of all possible alternatives. 
Drugs are cheaper (and work faster). 
Daily exercise regulates the mood bet- 
ter than the "talking cure" (and treats 
"excess" weight more efficiendy than 
any professional weight-loss program) . 
Taking up a hobby, getting a new sex 
partner, changing jobs: all of these are 
far more likely to improve your quality 
of life in less time and at lower cost than 
it takes to have your head shrunk. 

Psychotherapy makes the most 
sense for someone in crisis or transi- 
tion. By definition, "crisis" can only last 
so long, and even "transition" is some- 
thing that should occur within a few 
months. Anyone who has been "in ther- 
apy" for years should frankly ask them- 
selves what they have gotten in return 
for the hundreds of hours of talking 
and the thousands of dollars spent. 

Good therapy should produce 
change. Yet most clients are actually 
seeking to avoid change, to continue 

living the way they are but to somehow 
stop hurting. Their jobs drive them 
crazy, so they consider taking Prozac or 
talking with you for an hour every week. 
But the best thing they could do, prob- 
ably, is change jobs. This is usually one 
of the last things they're willing to con- 
sider. Instead, they want a quick fix that 
allows them to change as litde as possi- 

This is even more obvious when 
"treating" the number-one psycho- 
therapeutic complaint: "Bad" relation- 
ships or dysfunctional families. Is your 
partner: addicted, abusive, asexual, in- 
different, cruel, neglectful, insensitive, 
stupid, lazy, evil, dishonest, and/or no 
fun to be with? Well, then, leave the 
bum! Is that so difficult to figure out? 
Should conveying that really take more 
than a few sessions? But, but, but! they 
will stammer, and go on to explain why 
this isn't "possible". 

Their problem is a dysfunctional re- 
lationship. Yet instead of refusing to 
participate in it, they seek you out for 
another lopsided, dysfunctional rela- 
tionship of a different sort By piling 
one unbalanced relationship upon an- 
other, they hope to reach equilibrium. 
And that's exactiy what they get, the 
perpetuation of a poor compromise 
that makes them miserable. 

Why can't people just talk (for free) 
to their friends and partners? Because 
that is exacdy what they seek to avoid. 
By restricting these revelations to a 
hired stranger one further alienates 
them, moves them away from their cen- 
tral issues. The rising popularity of long- 
term psychotherapy is a symptom of 
declining emotional stability and in- 
creasing alienation. Like TV, it's a cure 
that makes the illness worse. 

If families spent less time silentiy 
glued to their televisions, they might be 
able to support one another emotion- 
ally without sub-contracting this chore 
to outsiders. If people lived in genuine 
groupings based on common interests, 
instead of being isolated in "nuclear" 
families by accident of birth, they could 
avoid much of the pain currentiy ex- 
pressed, quietiy, in the private cham- 
bers of psychotherapists. 

And, finally and most importandy, if 
people led meaningful lives in the first 
place instead of being yoked to point- 
less and painful careers performing 
worthless labor, perhaps they wouldn't 
suffer so much. As it stands, this pain 
merely justifies one more mosdy mean- 
ingless profession: psychotherapy 

- Kwazee Wabbitt 




Public schooling has become 
the current line of defense 
against dismantling the pub- 
lic sphere. Defending public school 
as we know it requires re-legitimiz- 
ing the notion of a public good to be 
provided or at least guaranteed by 
the state. The past decade of Rea- 
ganism enshrined privatization, 
which shrank the entidements and 
rights associated with the pubUc 
sphere. Besides schools, what else 
does the public have anymore ex- 
cept some poorly tended parks, a 
few cash-starved museums and li- 
braries, and rapidly deteriorating 
roads, rails and bridges? If the pub- 
lic schools were eliminated, the 
state's functions on behalf of the 
public would be reduced to taxa- 
tion, repression and subsidizing 

No one can defend public educa- 
tion without serious qualification, but 
such a defense must include an unquali- 
fied endorsement of the public. Public 
life is the arena in which we verify truth, 
share experiences, and fully develop 
our humanity as social beings. Public 
life is also a prerequisite for democracy. 
For all its flaws and mystifications, what 
is democracy if not a public process of 
politics and decision-making? A social 
institution, like school, that is self-con- 
sciously public and subject to politi- 
cal/popular control, however 
compromised, is important to a radical 
agenda that hopes to extend demo- 
cratic social control over the whole of 
public life. 

But instead of pouring our efforts 
into defending the few public institu- 
tions that still exist, we have to re-create 
and re-animate a public life that goes 
considerably beyond existing institu- 
tions. Our goal should not be simply to 
reclaim public education, but to estab- 
lish a new way of life in which public 

control over social matters (including 
"economic" ones) is understood as a 
political process subject to democratic 
norms (norms which are themselves de- 
termined by social processes). To do 
this we need to educate people to self- 
confidentiy participate. Public educa- 
tion's role looms large, not because 
specific curricula lead to specific re- 
sults, but because school is where we 
most intensively interact with and learn 
about others outside of the family, 
neighborhood or work. Public schools, 
at their best, bring together people of 
widely different cultural, ethnic, and 
linguistic backgrounds and socialize 
them to participate in cooperative ac- 
tivities, develop respect for others, and 
so on. The public schools could be the 
best arena for us to learn what public 
life is about, and how we can participate 
in it. 

It is easy to criticize schools as insti- 
tutions of social control which create 
unthinking zombies that will become 
the pliable workers and consumers of 
the future. But most of us who might 
make such a glib critique are living ex- 
amples of the porous nature of school- 
ing's social control agenda. For 
instance, almost everything of value 
that I learned in school resulted from 
social interactions and experiences that 
took place in spite of the twisted logic 
of the school system. Learning, for bet- 
ter or worse, goes on everywhere, not 
just at school. Television has at least as 
much influence as schooling in shaping 
our ideas about the world and ourselves 
and our sense of what's possible. Even 

Public schools could be 
the best arena for us 
to learn what public 
life is about, and how 
we can participate in 


if zealous right-wing Christians took 
over the public schools and instituted 
their narrow, authoritarian curriculum, 
there is no guarantee that it would reli- 
ably produce the kind of obedient. 
God-fearing, hard-working citizens they 
dream about. Similarly, a more left- 
leaning school curriculum may not pre- 
dictably produce critical, 

self-motivated, responsible citizens 
ready to assert themselves as part of a 
wider public life. 


Curriculum is not the most impor- 
tant educational issue. Rather, it is the 
people we meet, the relationships we 
establish, and whether or not we are 
encouraged to think for ourselves and 
to believe our own experiences, that 
finally have the greatest influence on 
what kind of people we are when we 
emerge from our education. Educa- 
tion's role in shaping our imagination 
is one compelling reason for school in- 
tegration. Racial tension encourages 
even neo-liberals to see school desegre- 
gation as an ameliorative policy, al- 
though their "solution" of busing led to 
more social conflict, reactionary back- 
lash and white flight than it led to ra- 
cially balanced schools. 

Racial integration in public schools 
is a necessary foundation for a racially 
integrated public life. In spite of spasms 
of ethnic "cleansing" and chronic 
world-wide racism, a vibrant, ever-evolv- 
ing, cross-pollinating multiculturalism 
is spreading across the globe, gradually 
becoming the new dominant culture. 
Some of the best things about living in 
San Francisco, New York, or other big 
cities are the astounding possibilities 
for cross-cultural experience. Unfortu- 
nately these possibilities are most often 
limited to our role as consumers. You 
can breakfast Chinese Dim Sum, tour a 
Modern Art Exhibit, lunch Italian, 
check out Latino murals in the after- 
noon, shop New Age White Profes- 
sional Thrift Store, dine Thai or Indian, 


and dance the night away at a rap club, 
salsa disco, white kid rock club, what- 
ever, and top it o£f at an Irish bar or a 
Salvadoran Taqueria. But it is consider- 
ably more rare to hang out at your white 
friend's house, then head over to Bay- 
view to your black friend's house, and 
then to Chinatown and see your friends 
there, then everyone heads over to the 
Hispanic Mission District, and so on. 

Luckily there are plenty of pockets 
of genuine cross-cultural interest and 
respect in big cities, which are (hope- 
fully) sources of cultural dynamism and 
new thinking. Developing a respect and 
appreciation for other cultures may 
even help stem the erosion of cultural 
diversity caused by public education 
and market pressure to "Americanize." 
(While environmentalists have been de- 
crying shrinking biodiversity, an equally 
serious problem for human society is 
shrinking cultural diversity, with a ma- 
jority of known languages falling into 
disuse, and astonishing reservoirs of 
knowledge disappearing as the inexora- 
ble march of "progress" squashes re- 
maining pockets of indigenous culture 
worldwide. This process continues in- 
dependent of the expanding multicul- 
tural mass culture mentioned above.) 
Accommodating different cultures in 
public schools counters the push to em- 
brace monocultural white-bread values, 
even if in adapting to a multi-ethnic 
society each individual culture begins 
to change too. Moreover, multicultural 
education accurately reflects the real 
"new world order," which will no longer 
have the U.S. and European culture as 
its imperial standard. In adapting to a 
multi-polar, multi-ethnic world, it's cru- 
cial to have the educational opportuni- 
ties and intensity of social experience 
available in a city like San Francisco. 

In 1993, though, segregated and un- 
equal public education is the norm 
throughout the United States. The at- 
tempt to address a deeply racist, pre- 
dominantly segregated society by 
integrating public schools (ignoring 
the basic question of wealth/invest- 
ment, etc.) has often led to more open- 
mindedness and less overt racism. But 
that apparent achievement by "progres- 
sive forces" has proven to be a very 
limited - even empty - victory. School 
desegregation has been isolated and 
outflanked by white flight, privatization 
and anti-tax revolts (like the 1978 Cali- 
fornia Proposition 13). Compare al- 
most any white suburban school to its 
non-white urban counterpart and the 

THIS M«»fclH W«IL» 




UAT/M& mem behs or the class of •<13... I 



results are clear. Overall education 
spending has gone up, but the gap be- 
tween rich and poor is wider than ever. 
Many poor districts are spending less 
now than they were a decade ago. Rich 
school districts, which tax their local 
property at rates far below poverty 
stricken areas, spend as much as five to 
eight times as much as nearby poor 
districts. The result is sharp, self-per- 
petuating racial and class divisions. 


Racial integration remains an im- 
portant goal for public schools. But it is 
patently absurd to expect integrated 
public schools alone to overcome this 
society's deeply entrenched institu- 
tional and personal racism. School inte- 
gration falls even farther short of the 
mark when the goal is "equality." What 
is the "equal education" integrated 
schools are supposed to deliver? Shall 
we measure equality of opportunity or 
equality of results? How do you measure 
equality of opportunity? In dollars per 
pupil? By holding everyone account- 
able to some national standards for 
spending, facilities, and classroom size? 
By evaluating teachers and determining 
teacher/student ratios? Certainly equal 
education mandates national standards 



regarding equalized resource alloca- 

But even if resource distribution 
were equalized, how could we know that 
it led to equality? Can test results help 
us assess equal education? One of my 
earliest lessons in critical thinking came 
in the 10th grade when we engaged in 
a lengthy analysis of the stupidity of 
grades and tests as meaningful meas- 
urements of anything. Grades are obvi- 
ously highly subjective, and after a brief 
analysis even the most "objective" test 
turns out to be laden with racial and 
class biases that taint any results it may 

Does equal education mean giving 
specific cultural communities control 
over curriculum and assessment? Or 
does "equality" imply instead that spe- 
cific cultures should be subsumed 
within the larger "community," and eve- 
ryone evaluated on some "objective" na- 
tional norms? If so, what constitutes the 
dominant cultural norm, and what 
makes us so sure it is sufiiciendy fixed 
that we can evaluate whether or not 
people have been adequately trained to 
meet it? 

Is there some new way of under- 
standing and appreciating the role of 
education, independent of measurable 


results? If we can recreate an animated 
public life, the participation of students 
and young adults may be a better gauge 
of good education than any test results. 

"Equality," whether witJi respect to 
educational opportunity or outcome, 
or even citizenship, is one of the am- 
biguous concepts that undergird our 
similarly vague notions of "democracy." 
Democracy remains an all-purpose, ut- 
terly malleable expression that encom- 
passes radical egalitarianism, 
middle-class meritocracy, and the vio- 
lent, oligarchical class- and race-divided 
society in which we are allowed an occa- 
sional vote for pre-selected candidates, 
representing minor differences in em- 
phasis rather than true political alterna- 
tives. The concept of democracy is 
elastic enough to accommodate even 
the brutal liquidation of minorities in 
foreign lands under the auspices of U.S. 
intelligence agencies promoting "ma- 
jority rule." Whatever definition of 
"equality" or "democracy" one might 
choose to embrace, there will surely be 
several dozen others embraced just as 

If there are no objective standards 
for evaluating educational success or 
failure, what are the subjective stand- 
ards and whose interests do they repre- 
sent? When you hear someone 
addressing the failure of education, 

what is their vision of success and what 
social values does that vision embody? 
How do such educational goals affect 
democracy? How does a democratic so- 
ciety shape its public sphere without 
being coercive? In other words, what 
are the limits of individual freedom in 
a real democracy? 


From its Jeffersonian roots in the 
one-room schoolhouse of mid-19th 
century rural America to its expansion 
into assimilation factories during the 
great waves of immigration at the turn 
of the last century, public schooling has 
always been an arena of conflicting so- 
cial interests. The U.S. ruling class 
feared generalized literacy for many 
generations, and the fight for public 
education was a popular, democratizing 
opposition to those interests. But even 
in its most progressive forms, educa- 
tion's structure kept it well within the 
limits of capitalist society. 

In fact, for most of this century, 
mandatory public schooling primarily 
served to create useful workers at public 
expense to be exploited in the market- 
place for private gain. Of course, the 
educators assumed they were serving 
society at large and generally gave littie 
thought to how they were direcdy filling 
the needs of business. Now the econ- 

omy has become increasingly auto- 
mated and the demand for (fewer) new 
workers with different skills has grown. 

An equally important purpose of 
education is pacification. Keep the kids 
unwaged and safely within institutions 
as long as possible. Adapt them to pas- 
sive, isolated lives of alienated con- 
sumption at best, and if they are 
well-connected or hard-working, give 
them a repetitive, meaningless job. For 
the select minority, upscale private 
schools lead to expensive private uni- 
versities and a slot in the policy- and 
profit-making professions. 

In the new world market, the prole- 
tarianizing and pacifying model of 
school and work no longer holds much 
promise. In the old economic model, 
what workers thought about was irrele- 
vant so long as they did their jobs and 
didn't cause trouble. Most of them 
"failed" at school in any case. With the 
drastic cheapening of manual and 
manufacturing labor in the expanding 
world market, reform rhetoric stresses 
that new, supposedly more intelligent 
workers are needed to compete success- 

Either congealed as computerized 
data or as human capital, thinking itself 
is now a necessary prerequisite for capi- 
tal accumulation, as well as something 
to be accumulated. Economic competi- 


Australia is currently experiencing a 
drive to reform their educational system 
along the lines pioneered by the Thatcher 
Government in Britain. The new policies 
being developed promote vocational 
competence over academic knowledge, 
with "less emphasis on students as self- 
determining subjects , more on producing 
the students that employers want" These 
reforms have the support of both Labor 
(the ACTU [Australia Central Trades Un- 
ion, equivalent to the U.S. AFL-CIO] and 
Business (the Business Council of Austra- 
lia), a fact that has contributed to their 
momentum and bi-partisan acceptance. 
In this excerpted version of his article 
from Arena Magazine, Simon Marginson 
takes a critical look at Australia's push for 
competency-based reform in education.] 

Competency is the new buzzword in 
education. Competency is not about book 

learning or knowledge per se, but about 
what people can do in the workplace. 
Work-related competence tends towards 
a behaviorist approach, in which the out- 
comes of education are defined in terms 
of transparent, observable, and measur- 
able qualities of an individual. In turn, this 
narrows the educational program and the 
normal curriculum becomes closed to all 
but vocational objectives. Other objec- 
tives become exceptional and must be 
fought for every time. Most important, the 
outer limits of what students, and to some 
extent workers, are able to achieve are set 
by the imagination and generosity of the 
designers of the competency measure- 

An Australian Government Committee 
set up to develop educational/vocational 
"generic competencies" has defined 
seven "Key Competency Strands" as fol- 

D Collecting, analysing and organiz- 
ing ideas and information; 

D Expressing ideas and information; 

D Planning and organizing activities; 

D Working with others and in teams; 

n Using mathematical ideas and tech- 

D Solving problems; 

D Using technology. 

The competencies are free of context 
and content. The idea is that the generic 
competencies are the same in all fields of 
education and work — that it should be 
possible to measure, say, problem-solv- 
ing skills in physics and electrical engi- 
neering so as to render them equivalent 
to problem solving in studying Indonesian 
or sculpture. 'Skills' are to be homoge- 
nized and socialized; the centersof power 
remain heterogenous, uneven and pri- 

Measured generic competencies 
would enable employers to decide which 
future workers will be suitably flexible, 
malleable, and transferrable — the ideal 
subjects for management. Many employ- 
ers distrust educational credentials as se- 
lection criteria, and with good reason: 
academic training as such does not con- 
stitute preparation for work. 

In economic debate, the case for com- 
petency-based reform is grounded in the 



tiveness, we are told, now depends on 
die expansion of "knowledge work" and 
the creation of more flexible "knowl- 
edge workers." Therefore, education 
reform must colonize the mind in new 
ways. Education reformers seek a new 
style of schooling that will turn more 
human thinking into work, which will 
insure further capital accumulation 
(the real measurement of "health" in 
our society) . For this project to succeed, 

students must - at a higher level and 
more comprehensively than before - 
accept their role as trainees in search of 
scarce niches in the projects of transna- 
tional capital. 

The extension of capitalist disci- 
pline from the muscle to the brain has 
been underway for decades in the re- 
structuring of work and leisure and the 
amazing expansion of merchandising 
and mass media (this is sometimes re- 

ferred to theoretically as the change 
from "the formal" to "the real" domina- 
tion of capital). To ensure its control of 
our imaginations, modern capitalism 
requires more than the threat of unem- 
ployment or even homelessness. We 
must be sold on active and enthusiastic 
participation. Everyone must work for a 
"healthy" economy! We must do a good 
job! The problem for capitalist educa- 
tion planners is producing enthusiastic 
workers with extremely narrow compe- 

President Clinton promises great re- 
forms in education to bolster U.S. com- 
petitiveness in the world market. 
Robert Reich, his Secretary of Labor, 
wrote recendy: "There is no simple way 
to enlarge upon the number of Ameri- 
cans eligible for the high-wage jobs of 
the future. More money for education 
and training is necessary, but is hardly 
sufficient. The money.. .must be focused 
on building two key capacities in the 
workforce: first, the ability to engage in 
lifelong learning, and second, the of>- 
portunity to engage in it on the job. The 
most important intellectual (and eco- 
nomic) asset which a new entrant into 
the workforce can possess is the knowl- 
edge of how to learn." [S.F. ChronicleDec. 
5, 1992] 

Clinton, firmly within the main- 
stream of the ruling class in his alle- 

now familiar argument about the need for 
international competitiveness. It is na- 
ively assumed that if workers' competen- 
cies are increased, then their productivity 
will rise automatically, along with their 
contribution to wealth creation and meas- 
ured economic growth. Economic pro- 
ductivity is a function of jobs, rather than 
the attributes of people, and there is 
plenty of evidence that existing skills are 
under-used in the workplace. 

The ACTU also sees competency re- 
form as the basis for a more egalitarian 
and meritocratic system of work organi- 
zation and selection, objectives of little 
interest to employers. Competency meas- 
urement is seen as a way of overcoming 
the old divisions of power and status in 
which educational advantage was always 
coupled to social advantage. The ACTU 
says that competency reform will mean 
that unions will no longer act for their 
membership according to a model of col- 
lective struggle. Rather, they will provide 
'professional development assistance and 
career advice' for individual members. ... 

However, these 'happy' outcomes 
depend on the willingness of the employ- 
ers to fully utilize workers' competencies 
and to pay them accordingly. There is no 
guarantee of this. Further, a more merito- 
cratic system can only be created if com- 
petency reform is extended to the 
regulation of university entrance and uni- 
versity credential! ng, including full recog- 
nition of work experience as the basis for 
entry into formal education. These 
changes are unlikely to be achieved, and 
the old divisions of power and status will 
remain as the distinction between the 
academically trained and the competency 

Competency-based training is a prin- 
cipal example of what Foucault has called 
'technologies of the social' - systems of 
regulation that are designed at one and 
the same time to mold individuals and to 
control the relationship of social groups. 
Formal educational institutions perform 
certain social functions that have become 
indispensible to modern production and 
governance. Education is where subjec- 
tivities are formed. The reorganization of 

education to produce competence is the 
latest and most effective of a long line of 
policies designed to ensure that the kind 
of people produced in education are cen- 
tered on work. 

What is at stake today is work of a 
particular kind. Controlled flexibility is 
seen as the key to industrial performance. 
Competency-based reform has its sights 
on the modernized, universal, polyvalent 
worker whose desire for autonomy and 
control is redefined as the desire for an 
individual career, based on a history of 
compliance and programmed responses. 

Of course for many trainees in compe- 
tency there will be no jobs to be had, 
multiskilled or not. Here the chameleon- 
like education system plays other, equally 
important roles. Education delays entry 
into an over-stocked labor market while 
transferring the responsibility for unem- 
ployment, poverty and failure from gov- 
ernment and employers to teachers, 
individual students and their families. 

—Arena Magazine, Box 18 P.O. North 
Carlton, Victoria, Australia 3054 


giance to the market as the source of 
human improvement, sold educational 
reform as Governor of Arkansas by 
pitching it as the basis for economic 
renewal, "...the plain evidence in every 
state in this country is that you must 
have a higher threshold of people with 
college degrees if you want low unem- 
ployment -not because most of the new 
jobs in the economy will require college 
degrees; mostof 'em won't But because 
most of them will be created by entre- 
preneurs who have that kind of educa- 
tion." [American Educator, Fall 1992] 

But what about the majority who will 
be forced into the bottom tier of our 
2-tiered society, left to fight for those 
jobs that "don't require college de- 
grees"? Clearly work has been restruc- 
tured to the point where most jobs do 
not need much prior training. As long 
as you "know how to learn," you can 
become an efficient worker in a matter 
of minutes, or at most, days. Schooling 
as it is now prepares one for long hours 
of repetitive, uncreative labor. Will the 
reformers extend academic tracking 
even further to try to prevent the bot- 
tom-tier from becoming too critical and 
aware? If not, how can the system sur- 
vive if most of the people who are con- 
demned to part-time and precarious 
temporary work are able to think criti- 

cally about their situation? The hegem- 
ony of the capitalist way of life may 
erode rapidly if educational reforms ac- 
tually produce more thoughtful citi- 

A more realistic forecast is that 
schools won't change much. New 
books, curriculum, and tests will be an- 
nounced with much to-do, while the 
underlying reality of education won't 
budge. Fortunately, learning is more 
about experiences than curriculum. 
Whatever reforms are implemented, 
real education will come from the rela- 
tionships formed in and around each 
classroom. The increase in parent par- 
ticipation in public schools gives us all 
an opportunity to bring the experi- 
ences we think are important into our 
kids' education. The focus and scope of 
learning is always being contested, and 
we can intimately affect them if we want 


I have a daughter in the 3rd grade 
who attends an alternative public 
school. The school retains some of the 
spirit of its founding in the early '70s, 
with faculty and parents who are 
strongly committed not only to parent 
participation, but to alternative peda- 
gogy, integrated cultures, ages, and 

grades, and conflict resolution as well. 
Rather than serving under a principal, 
the school's faculty elects a "head 
teacher," a job that rotates. It's very ra- 
cially balanced, with no group over 
30%. This year the school has been a 
pilot test site for an alternative ap- 
proach to curriculum in which kids se- 
lect special interdisciplinary projects - 
beginning oceanography, farmers* 
market calendar, multicultural cook- 
book, kids' guide to Bay Area Transit, 
pre-Colombian ocean kayaks - that 
they work on intensively for 3-6 weeks. 
By most standards, this school is a gem. 

Having listed its rosy attributes, I 
have to say that it is still a public school. 
The building is cramped and awful, sur- 
rounded by a big asphalt yard. Parents 
chip in up to $300 to pay a Phys Ed 
instructor's salary, for which there is no 
public funding. The library is a large 
closet, and the nearby city library only 
allows classes to visit once a year! My 
child is often bored. I don't think she is 
challenged by a lot of what she does all 
day, but I don't blame the school or the 
teacher because I think both are good. 

The frustration comes when you be- 
gin to imagine how different schooling 
could be if it were more integrated into 
the web of daily life. Children are curi- 
ous and infrequentiy satisfied by the 



knowledge gained through school. But 
if you let them help do a real job that 
needs doing, the experience is much 
more meaningful, and teaches the 
child to believe in her own experiences 
rather than representations of other 
people's experiences. Practical knowl- 
edge of mechanics, gardening, comput- 
ers, transportation, and so on, are all 
more thoroughly and interestingly ab- 
sorbed from being out in the world, not 
from sitting around listening to lec- 
tures, watching videos, or even reading 
books (although they have their place) . 
But life is not organized to accommo- 
date groups of children participating 
usefully. And we know that it is not 
education's goal to produce active, in- 
quisitive, resourceful people. Even al- 
ternative schools foster socially- 
approved attitudes and behaviors. 

It's a cop-out to blame everything on 
the institutions that constrain our lives. 
Because the really great things that hap- 
pened to me in the educational envi- 
ronment were nearly always social, I 
recognize my responsibility to enter the 
educational swamp. Unless I opt for 

homeschooling, I will continue sharing 
my daughter's development with public 
schools. The least I can do (which is 
unfortunately usually all that I do) is to 
go on camping and field trips and get 
involved with the kids and other adults. 
I bring a different perspective to the 
school environment, and I love meeting 
people from other walks of life, which 
always leads to interesting exchanges. 

Of course, most parents have to 
work all day and don't have time to 
make up for the inadequacies of public 
schooling by volunteering for extracur- 
ricular activities. Hinging improved 
schooling on parent participation en- 
dorses the generalized speed-up and 
intensification of labor that is already 
exhausting most working people. While 
admirable, the incredible number of 
hours parents spend raising money 
through thankless garage and bake 
sales, raffles and carnivals, passes a pub- 
lic cost onto theirhacks and extends their 
work week. Yet somehow, we who are 
committed to radical change must find 
the extra energy, time and effort to par- 
ticipate in arenas such as public school. 

even if in the short term it just feels like 
more (unrewarded) work. 

My daughter's entire school takes a 
camping trip to nearby San Bruno 
Mountain every October. I've partici- 
pated three times now. When I showed 
up at San Bruno Mountain this year, two 
boys with whom I'd shared a cabin 
nearly a year-and-a-half earlier came 
running up to me, excitedly yelling my 
name. I suddenly realized how much 
the time I'd spent playing and talking 
with them meant to them. During that 
earlier trip, I had felt rather over- 
whelmed. I did my best to treat the boys 
well and show them respect, but at the 
time I v^ras struck by how fundamentally 
impossible the public school teacher's 
job is. How can one adult give 30-odd 
kids the enormous emotional and intel- 
lectual energy and discipline they 
need? A lot of kids don't get much of 
this at home, and when they get to 
school, they need a lot. 

Although the problems children 
face are not going to be solved by any 
one relationship, you cannot underesti- 
mate the importance of honest friend- 
ship. This society is a very cold place, 
and many kids never experience other 
people's trust and confidence, or get to 
discuss things with someone interested 
in their opinion. Even 
a brief encounter with 
someone who helps 
you understand why 
things are as crazy as 
they are can make a 
huge difference in sur- 
viving this absurd soci- 

Helping to dispell 
children's confusion 
has everything to do 
with the shape and 
content of future social movements. 
Ways of thinking and relating to others 
are inculcated early. A culture enriched 
by difficult questions and dialogue 
could help spawn a 21st-century genera- 
tion of revolutionaries worthy of the 
name. We all have a lot to contribute in 
making that culture a living reality. But 
this means reinhabiting public life, cre- 
ating and participating in public events, 
and challenging the fatigue and passiv- 
ity that keeps so many of us home watch- 
ing TV instead of out among our 
friends, neighbors, and strangers. Can 
we rise to the occasion? 

- Chris Carlsson 

graphic; cc 



Commemorating Operation 
Give 'Em Enough Hype this 
beatitiful figurine lovingly 
re-creates the image of U.S. 
fiireign policy through the 
magic medium of the 
NewCaste'' sculpting process. 

Hungry Mohammed 

Honoring the proud heritage of the 
starving Somali people, the Conoco 
Mint in assocation with the Pentagon is 
proud to present this magnificent 
collector doll — Hungry Mohammed 

Designed by the same team that created such unique porcelain 
treasures as Kumar the Gratejul Kurd, and Henri the Homebound 
Haitian, Hungry Mohammed's emaciated features are lovingly 
handcrafted in bisque porcelain. 

Re-created with unprecedented care and accuracy, and clothed in 
authentic rags hand-sewn by U.N, relief workers, Hungry 
Mohammed is extraordinarily lifelike — detail for detail as 
heartwrenching as the original. 

Days after the crisis has faded from ourTV screens, you will admire 
and cherish the exquisite craftmanship of this stirring miniature, 
and the though tfiilness of your investment. 

A Conoco Mint exclusive, Hungry Mohammed is attractively 
priced at $175, payable in five monthly installments of $35, the 
first due prior to shipment. Send no money now. Simply return 
your Reservation Application today. Order before June 14, 1993 
and you will receive a ftilly functional begging bowl absolutely free! 

The Conoco Mint 
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW • Washington, DC 20500 




YES, I CARE! Please accept my reservation for Hungry Mohammed, a beautiful 
collectordoU with emaciated featuresof fine porcelain. ACertificateofAuthenti city 
and stand are included at no additional charge. I will pay for my doll in five 
monthly installments of $35, the first to be billed before shipment. 

Name & I.D. Number 


City . 

State of Mind , 


Check here if you want each installment charged to your: 

□ Visor G Master Race □ Discoverer G American Excess 

Credit Card Number Expiration Date 


Name to print on Certificate of Authenticity , 

(if different from above). 

98% Lean 


Please allow 4 to 8 weeks after initial payment for shipment. 



MIDNIQHT OIL: Work, Energy, War 
1973-1993 by the Midnight Notes Col- 
lective ($12, Autonomedia, POB 568 
Williamsburg Station, Brooklyn, NY 

I was reading Midnight Oily/hen the 
news was published in late January 1993 
that Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and 
Phillips had exclusive concessions to 
about two-thirds of Somalia's future oil 
and gas discoveries. Conoco's head- 
quarters, the only multinational corpo- 
rate office still open through Somalia's 
civil war, became the de facto American 
embassy when the U.S. military moved 

With this knowledge, the Somalian 
"humanitarian" effort became more 
understandable, and strongly illustrates 
the Midnight Notes Collective's thesis 
that recent history must be seen firom 
the working class point of view through 
the lens of petroleum. 

The collective basically sees eco- 
nomic crisis as capital's response to the 
working class movements (working 
class defined as broadly as possible) of 
the late '60s and early '70s, which man- 
aged to win major increases in wages 
and social benefits. Oil price shocks in 
1973-74 ended the post-war "deal," be- 
ginning the rollback of living standards. 
Later, after 1979, cheap oil was reim- 
posed as an attack on the heightened 
expectations of the people of oil-pro- 
ducing countries, with a subsequent ex- 
plosion of international debt. This in 
turn allowed (and still allows) capital to 
force dov«i living standards in nation 
after nation through "structural adjust- 
ment programs" imposed by the IMF 
and World Bank. The need for contin- 
ued high production demands new in- 
vestments, but capital is unwilling to 
invest when the proletariat threatens to 
not work hard enough for littie enough. 
According to Midnight Oil and its very 
informative and detailed account of the 
economy of the six million guest work- 
ers in the Middle East, these many peo- 
ple and their expectations of sharing 
the oil wealth were a major source of 
fear for international capital. Before 
capital would reinvest massively in oil 
production in the Middle East, it had to 
be confident of its control there and 
back in the major market, the U.S. 
When Americans accepted the Persian 
Gulf War in the Middle East, both ends 
were achieved, at least for the moment: 

A Post-Good Life Generation? 

We're living in tlie Age of Piummeting Expectations and most people seem sadly resigned to 

ttiis fate. Ecological disasters, more wars, depression - you know. As the next millenlum 

approaches, prophets (and profits) of doom are a dime a dozen. But what constitutes a 

future worth living for? Certainly not more of the long bankrupt American Dream! Life could 

be so much better - what's your idea about a better life? The next Processed World will be 

dedicated to "The Future of the Future." Please contribute! 

the Middle East is completely milita- 
rized and millions of potentially trou- 
blesome guest workers have been sent 
back to Egypt, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and 
Malaysia. Meanwhile, the "peace move- 
ment" and their antecedents in the anti- 
nuke, pro-alternative technology crowd 
were rendered practically mute in the 
face of the onslaught. (See also in Mid- 
night Oil "Strange Victories," an essay 
included from the first issue oi Midnight 
Notesin 1979, written by bolo'bolo author 
p.m., which examines exactiy who the 
anti-nuke movement was in terms of 
class, race and sociology) . Oil compa- 
nies have been free to raise the price of 
oil over 30% in the past year in the U.S., 
while there is no longer any public dis- 
cussion about abolishing the massive 
use of fossil fuels as soon as possible. 
Military occupation of Saudi Arabia and 
Kuwait and the maintenance of a police 
state in Iraq, as well as the theocracy in 
Iran, all work to hold down the people 
of those countries and preserve the ex- 
tremes of wealth and poverty. 

Midnight Oil incorporates essays 
from Midnight Notes during the '80s, in- 
cluding several from the recent "New 

Enclosures" issue. A number of pieces 
from the original 1975 Zerowork are re- 
published here and lay out some of the 
theoretical foundations of the Mid- 
night Notes perspective. The opening 
100 pages of the book are all new, offer- 
ing some of MN's best work ever once 
you get used to the emphasis on work- 
ing class composition, re-composition 
and de-composition as explanatory 

Midnight Notes' emphasis on see- 
ing things from the working class point 
of view provides a refreshing reminder 
of the usefulness of some of Marx's 
original analyses about the broader 
categories of capitalist society. I have 
quibbled with my friends at MN for 
years over the semantic emphasis on 
capital and the working class, as though 
there were two clear entities making 
unified but opposed plans and taking 
action on them. I occasionally feel like 
I'm hearing a crackpot conspiracy the- 
ory. But Midnight Oil overcame that 
with clear although abstract analysis. 
They still use language that can sound 
silly and conspiratorial, not to mention 
a bit stodgy, but given the real course of 



events during the past 20 years, it is 
fascinating how their analysis parallels 
and predicts history. The next time you 
want to go deeper than "Those Unfair 
Oil Companies!" or "No Blood for Oil" 
or "Why is the Middle East so crazy?" get 
yourself a copy of Midnight Oi/and setde 
in for an illuminating, challenging, and 
extremely informative read. 
- Chris Carlsson 

The Art and Sdcncc of Dumpstcr Div- 
ing by John Hoffman Copyright 1993 
(Loompanics Unlimited, P.O.Box 
1197, Port Townsend, WA 98368 

The Art & Science ofDumpster Diving 
made me late for work twice and almost 
miss my train stop once. I have a fragile 
stomach and it turns over at the thought 
of diving into a dumpster or even read- 
ing a book on the subject. I changed my 
mind at the sight of the bright cover by 
Ace Backwords, a cartoonist oft publish- 
ed in these pages. 

The earnestness and aptness of this 
book is fascinating in these fragile times . 
Here is the wisdom gleaned from a life- 
time practice of dumpster diving as 
both a means of survival and an art 
form. There is advice about what to 
wear, look for, avoid and how to behave 
with people you encounter diving such 
as competitors, residents, cops and 
building managers. And watch out for 
glass and beware of bio-hazards such as 
red pouched "sharps" in hospital waste 

Raucous happiness underscores his 
every description of people engaging in 
economic activities such as dumpster- 
ing that deny the taxman and various 
local profiteers any gain. Beyond mere 
physical survival, the spirit of diving 
gives "Hoffmanville" its identity as a col- 
lective endeavor. Hoffman conveys well 
the individual and sharedjoys, learning 
and discoveries of these forays. 

Hoffman points out that grassroots 
trash recyclers re-inject wealth into the 
economy and save a lot of dump site 
space. But too littie and too late. Recy- 
cling works well only when discards are 
sorted at the household level. If your 
neighbors are as subhuman as mine 
are, good luck getting the work done! 
Local laws, locked dumpster areas (gar- 
bage is precious private property!) and 
trash compactors are used to frustrate 
the whole dumpster underground 
economy and should be actively fought 
(see "W.O.R.C. will make you free" on 
page 119, that's "War On Refuse Com- 

pactors".) In truth, I recycle, that means 
sort, my garbage and do not care who 
takes it. This is controversial in places 
where people think the city or half- 
assed non-profit organization should 
make a buck at it. Not so in this book: 

"Think about the stupidity! Dumpster 
divers and small recyclers are working effi- 
ciently, recycling things and injecting money 
into the economy. The waste recovery plant 
lives off tax money like a junkie, sucking the 
local economy dry. Who gets blamed? The 
dumpster diver of course! And when he stops 
picking through the trash, the facility still 
doesn't make any money. And it will never 
make money because the whole idea is flawed 
from the start, based upon an irrational fear 
of garbage. " (page 125) 

There is more here than dumpster 
diving techniques and wilted vegie reci- 
pes, etiquette and fashion. There's the 
Loompanics libertarian I-Love-Guns 
persona with amazing Inalienable 
American Rights to bear arms and con- 
stitutionally topple any iniquitous gov- 
ernment. But stay away from the cops, 
they're nothing but trouble: 

"Cops piss me off. They come at you with 
an attitude that you are guilty and they are 
going to get you to admit it mth a few verbal 
tricks. Just once, I'd like to meet a pig with 

an attitude like I have a shining aura of civil 
rights around my body and possessions. 
Criminals with guns and badges, that's all 
they are. " (page 58). 

It's indeed lamentably obvious that 
cops are trained in harassment tech- 
niques and lack concern for the rem- 
nants of civic liberties. At least in my 
adopted hometown, Berkeley. No Peo- 
ple's Republic but Pig Sty Supreme. 
"'Nuff said". 

Hofirnan convinced me that there is 
hidden treasure in the bins, that 
dumspter diving is a respectable occu- 
pation and even better, a subversion of 
the consumer society. He has a predis- 
position for what he calls "post-apoca- 
lyptic" landscapes and attitudes. I 
personally don't twig to apocalyptic vi- 
sions, especially when they are com- 
bined with the closing of the second 
christian millennium. But I appreciate 
the images Hoffman evokes and his way 
of living off the plentiful discards and 
discords of our consumer society. 

There's lots of juicy stuff on the art 
of putting "found information" to good 
use, and bushels of illegal possibilities 
should the reader be half a jailbird at 
heart. The worst story was garbage mail 
being used by a "church lady" and her 



group to close an abortion clinic. The 
enemy is using this found shit and so 
should you. That's the book talking, not 
me... really, Officer. 

The best stories were on how to 
make your local legislator look bad in 
the press through a careful read of his 
discarded info. Pohce mail is the best. 

Sexy pictures from neighbors or 
high school classmates aren't bad 
either. And the future is now: 

"In the last few years, I have seen an 
amazing dumpster phenomenon. People are 
discarding jloppy disks and computer related 
material by the ton.... Finding a floppy disk 
is like finding a cabinet full of papers - but 
in a compact, easy-to-use format. Once, I 
actually found the famous PLO virus. No 
wonder they threw it away. " (page 139) 

There is a somewhat didactic tone 
which can annoy the reader. But hey! 
Hoffman is a survivalist (without the 
vengeance, which he deplores as com- 
mon amongst that group ) . 

He preziches his stuff with plenty of 
religious fervor and admonitions to have 
fun at it, get back at the enemy (power 
companies, taxman, retail industries, 
banks...), use your imagination and thrive 
in the cracks of a dying capitalist economic 
web. There is a downplayed survivalist anti- 
abortion stance perhaps because the more 
(armed survivalists) the merrier? Women 
have the inalienable right to their body at 
all times in my script Hoflfrnan's bias also 
shows in the statement that businesses are 
a fix)nt for government 

"Ifthegorvemment demanded all persons 
buying books show proper ID, K-Mart would 
slavishly obey the edict. Don 't pity the "poor 
businessman", he's a whore for the govern- 
ment. You might as well be shopping at the 
IBS store..." (page 100) 

I used to think that governments 
were a front for businesses, then I grew 
up. Now I know it is a two-headed Cere- 
bus. Don't hesitate to use the singular: 

The most basic advice works regard- 
less of your ideological leanings. Don't 
pay full price if you don't have to, mat- 
tresses being the sole exception accord- 
ing to the author. I know a lot of people 
whose predilection favors flea markets 
above malls for the thrill and challenge 
of barter and that's what Hoffman 
pushes: free thrills. And a cash bonus to 
THAR DUMPSTERS!" He claims it's 
better than bill posting or spray paint- 
ing because it furthers family interests. 
Well, to each her cup of tea. 

In the meantime and as times do get 
mean (have been getting meaner for- 
ever really), Hoffman does his part in 
sharing his way to get from under the 
heavy economic boot of the "best sys- 
tem in the world", well known for its 
recurrent crashes, depressions, reces- 
sions, etc. So if you have a steady nose, 
go hound out those treasures. It could 
be a fun hunt The book certainly is a 
fun read. 

- Petraleuze 


Graphic: CC 

and Civil Sodety in 18th Ccntuiy Eng- 
land by Peter Linebaugh (Cambridoc 
University Press, New York: 1992) $25 

Midnight Notes contributor Peter 
Linebaugh, once a student of 
reknowned British labor historian E.P. 
Thompson, has fulfilled the promise of 
that apprenticeship by publishing an 
incredibly detailed account of the use 
of capital punishment in London from 
the late iVth century through the 18th 
century. This is a long, very serious 
book, that microscopically covers the 
daily lives of London's working class 
during the crucial century in which con- 
temporary work and property relations 
became firmly established. As Line- 
baugh shows, these relations were often 
enforced with the gallows. In an era 
when history is increasingly absent, de- 
nied, and manipulated, this book 
stands out as a beacon of clear, engag- 
ing historical writing. Linebaugh's 
analysis of the establishment of capital 
punishment for property crimes, the 
ebb and flow of the death penalty with 
changing labor needs, and the rise of 
wage-slavery and factory work sheds in- 
teresting light on the current resur- 
gence of capital punishment in the 
United States. 20th-century work and 

property relations are more precarious 
than ever thanks to new technologies, 
and new forms of resistance and refusal. 
Perhaps most compellingly, using work 
as a measure of social wealth makes less 
and less sense when capital itself is sys- 
tematically reducing the use of human 
labor in most areas of production. The 
ultimate punishment is making a come- 
back as society descends into criminal 
chaos and as desperate poverty be- 
comes more widespread. The London 
Hanged helps us see the social processes 
and decisions that make reliance on the 
death penalty "natural" and "obvious" 
and confronts us with their absurdity as 
reflected in a similar but vastiy different 
moment in history, a history as much 
ours as Londoners'. Check it out! 

- Chris Carlsson 

REAL QIRL: The Sex Comik for all 
genders and cartoon- 
ists who are good in bed! Edited by 
Angela Bocage. (Fantagraphics Books, 
7563 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, WA 
98115) $2.95 

Real Girlis real good. Cowgirls make 
horns at the blues. Maybe the some- 
times beautiful and sometimes not too 
aesthetic genitalia would scare your 
mother. That's not the raison d'etre for 
this diverse collection of cartoons. The 
philosophy here is of exploration and 
acceptance. It's so varied in scope that 
anyone can find a romantic soft touch 
or g-spot to hook on to. It is amazingly 
moral in essence. 

I passed it to my favorite teenagers 
(it's restricted as in not for sale to minors) 
and the favorite story from Real Girl #3 
was "Signed Sister Ende" by Chula 
Smith, a historical dream sequence of 
sorts, in which a 20th century woman 
teacher introduces the religious illumi- 
nations of a 13th century woman 
painter. She signed her work "Ende Pin- 
trix, Dei Autrix": Ende, Woman Painter 
& servant of god. In the background, 
modern school kids practice jungle war 
on each other. 

That just shows it's not about sex 
only. Everything is acceptable so long as 
it promulgates understanding and ac- 
ceptance. I'd recommend it for all 
those pesky teenagers still in your life or 
soon to be. But if I were you I'd grab it 
first, 'coz it's a great read. Make this 
comix required reading in all high schools! 

- Petraleuze 




Passing billboards that proclaim - "Working together 

to stimulate economic growth and job creation," 
Hearing over the radio - 'Tactories in orbit 

flourishing, healthy, growing," 
Reading in the paper -"Declining job market 

for trained elephants spells trouble," 
The interviewer appears again before me - 
"Gaps in your work-record, 

gaps in your work-record, 
don't look good to us, Mr. Antier - 
you don't expect us to believe 
all those years you wrote 

What could I say? What did I say? 
"We've come from a nation in which one-sixth were slaves 
to a nation 600 times larger in which 
we are all slaves." 
"No doubt before long factories vidll be totally extinct 
Well probably label factories an endangered species 
and preserve one or two 

for people to wander through 
to remember what they were like." 
"Employer and employee, this is Pussysmell Fingertips speaking 
you knew all along, didn't you, work-ethic as cattleprod, 
cemetery of timeclocks, vomitgas canisters 
ready and waiting." 

Tell the work-ethic you'll live to shit on its grave 

and have it regard it as a blessing, 
a blessing and not a curse. 
Why? Because, with a grin of chagrin - 

salves rather than slaves, 

peonies rather than peonage, 

prisms rather than prisons, 

surfboards rather than serfdom, 

wild rice rather than tame rice, 

meteors rather than meat-eaters, 

violins rather than violence, 

warble rather than war. 

Rather than business as usual, loafing as usual. 

Instead of the Misery Index throwing people out of work, 

throwing the work-ethic out the window. 
Instead of warhead payload, 

blowjobhead semenload. 
Instead of warhead payload, 

givinghead mouthload. 
Children made angels in the snow 

before the pyramids, before Stonehenge, 
before Pleistocene creatures 

were painted miles within on the walls of caves. 
The Ghost Dance is still going on. 
The Ghost Dance never died. 

If Descartes had lived today 

would he say - "I work, therefore I am"? 
The Holocaust's cost - who will pay? 
Roadkills in the Rearview Mirror? 
Deathbed on Rollerskates? 
Rubric of frolic and rollick and romp and roam 

all with a gleaming plump rump? 

D. Minkler 1993 

Low level radioactive waste 
can kill you in two minutes. 

"Low Level" is a misnomer used to lull the public 
into thinl<ing that such radioactive waste is harmless. 

People say Factories are closing down, 

Yeah, just like acid rain is closing down. 

Like tofflc waste dumps are closing down. 

Like deforestation and stripmining are closing down. 

Yeah, like slaughterhouses, terrorism, Star Wars, oil spills, 

handgun murder and AIDS are closing down. 
Factories are closing down, but opening up somewhere else, 

bigger, faster, producing more than ever somewhere else. 
Somewhere else doors open and workers enter in. 
Somewhere else workers daydream being free. 
The smokestacks rise somewhere else, 
The timeclocks, the paychecks, the drive 
To and from work somewhere else. 

If we can retread a worn-out tire, 

how retread a worn-out life? Retire? 
Recycle aluminum cans, sure, but 

how recycle the wasted lives, 
that question 

not answered. 

Something I had not bargained for. 

Something I did not count on: 

They peeled the skin off the father's face 

in front of his children, 
Then put a grenade in his mouth 

and pulled the pin. 
They gang-raped the mother in front of 

her children's eyes, 
Then cut off her breasts 

and rammed a lighted stick of dynamite 
up her cunL 

On your tombstone an ant crawls 
in the chiseled dash 

the dates of your life. 





Bank of America 

The 57-floor Bank of America build- 
ing towered over us, its black granite 
grid menacing us like a giant waffle iron 
ready to snap shut Posing as contrac- 
tors, we were about to remove an inte- 
rior wall from an office and take it home 
with us. Carrying a motorcycle helmet 
and a shoulder bag I explored most of 
the building as a lost courier. Identical 
offices line identical halls on identical 
floors - perfect for the job. 

BofA suffers from the muddled 
management structure typical of large 
American corporations: distant, over- 
paid executives direct redundant levels 
of middle managers who supervise 
countless specialized workers. We sus- 
pected we could enter an office, cut out 
a wall, cover a hole with toxic danger 
signs and leave without anyone know- 
ing we hadn't been hired to do it. We 
wanted to be as disruptive as possible 
without attracting the authorities. We 
would create chaos and pretend to be 
in control of it. 

According to our computer-pro- 
duced IDs, we were Halyard Semmins 
and Laila Finecke, field investigators for 
Spemtech, a toxics testing company. A 
work order detailed the rest: Spemtech 
had been authorized by the State Toxics 
Board to conduct tests for commercizd 
Health and Safety Certification. We 
were testing for Thorofil™, a carcino- 
genic DuPont fiber once used to fire- 
proof drywall. Required by law, the work 
was free. Could they say no? 

To make our appointment we called 
on a Thursday just before 5 p.m., hop- 
ing the building manager had left for 
the day. He had. We left a message say- 
ing we'd be there Friday afternoon, and 
we supplied a random fax number to 
slow down verification. It might buy us 
time if anyone decided to check us out 
while we were in the building. 

Friday at 4:15 p.m., Laila adjusted 
her tool-company baseball cap, I tucked 
in my "Perot for America" t-shirt, and 
we went in with toolboxes and bored 
contractor expressions. The assistant in 
charge was confused by our work order. 
He kept asking, "You want to do whati*" 

and saying "I don't know anything 
about this." I repeated ourjob's descrip- 
tion, which was to remove a small sec- 
tion of drywall for testing. 

"You're going to have to come back 
Monday so I can clear this with my boss," 
he decided. 

"Look," I said, "we just came all the 
way from Hayward to do a 20-minute 
job. You send us back, we're going to 
have to refile your paperwork with the 
state, which is going to delay your certi- 
fication. You know what the late fine 
would be on a building this big?" 

He ushered us up to the Office of 
Overseas Affairs, which we had chosen 
for its sinister name and proximity to 
freight elevators. While I removed cor- 
porate art {matches the carpets) from the 
wall and stacked furniture in a comer, 
Laila explained our presence to nearby 

"We're just doing some routine fiber 
separation tests here," she announced. 
"Shouldn't take more than a few min- 

The workers seemed satisfied. Laila 
put down dropcloths and duct-taped them 
to the floor while I ran an electronic stud 
sensor over the walls, selected for the irri- 
tating beep it produces when it senses a 
nail. We marked these spots with a graffiti- 
grade permanent marker. I drew a square 
around them and marked big right angles 
in its comers, adding equations where ap- 
propriate. It was time to put on the suits. 

The suits were the key to creating 
chaos. We would put on as much fright- 
ening emergency gear as possible while 
reassuring the workers around us that 
they were completely safe. The suits, 
made of bright white Tyvek and embla- 
zoned with red "Spemtech," "Biohaz- 
ard" and "Extreme Danger" logos, had 
draw-tight hoods and rubberized feet. 
Donning latex gloves, safety goggles 
and respirators, we were extra careful to 
tuck everything in. Laila handed me a 
three-quarter-inch hole drill. 

"Are you sure we don't need suits?" 
a worker asked, laughing nervously. 
Others were closing their doors or peer- 
ing cautiously over partitions. "Abso- 
lutely," I said through my respirator. 
"You're perfecdy safe." 

As I drilled holes in the wall, Laila 
plugged them with black rubber stop- 
pers. After drilling each hole, we care- 
fully shook the drill-bit dust into a plastic 
sample bag. Workers watched us from 
behind glass doors now. I sweated in my 
suit After I slashed deep into the white 
wall with a utility knife, we pulled out a 
3x5-foot wedge of wall. While I cut it 
into pieces sized to fit our yellow sample 
bags (marked "DANGER"), Laila spread 
plastic over the wound and sealed it with 
duct tape. Then we plastered the sur- 
rounding wall with warning stickers - 
French, English and Spanish versions of 
"Do Not Ventilate" and "Danger of 

We cleaned up and got out with our 
drywall trophies. Two days later a friend 
photographed our work. The wall had 
been fixed, all evidence removed. 

What did this act prove? Did the 
assistant who let us in get in trouble? 
Lose his job? It's easy to get swept up in 
the excitement and ignore the down- 
side - something we can't afford to do 
in the future. But the possibilities that 
this "practice run" opened up are heart- 
ening. With the right preparation and 
attitude, structures can be infiltrated. 
With added content, ideas could be in- 
troduced and minds opened. 

- Ace Tylene 

Wake Up and 
Smell the Tiers! 

inncrvoice#10- 2/10/93 

On Friday, Febmary 5, 1993, Bank 
of America announced in its particu- 
larly arrogant fashion that it was cutting 
all (or most) of its full-time tellers and 
administrative support staff to less than 
20 hours a week. Along with the cut in 
hours, the Bank sheds all the burden- 
some (to its bottom line) benefits such 
as sick pay, paid vacations, and medical 
insurance while reporting record prof- 
its! The result for bank workers is a 
major cut in living standards and an 
urgent push toward the door if they 
want to hold on to the income they've 
become accustomed to. But if they leave 
the Bank of America, many are no 
doubt thinking, where will they go? 



The Monday newspaper revealed 
that the local monopoly utility PG&E is 
planning to cut back its San Francisco- 
based, white collar workforce by as much 
as 10% over the next few months, and is 
bringing in management consultants to 
help in this "downsizing," supposedly be- 
cause of market competition! Then the 
Tuesday newspaper reports that Safeway, 
the nation's largest supermarket chain, 
based in Oakland, is also going to be 
trimming its home office staff, and is pub- 
licly targeting its 85 stores in the Cana- 
dian province of Alberta as a major 
cost<utting area. "If eflForts to address our 
labor costs fail, we may have to abandon 
the Alberta market altogether," said Peter 
Magowan, Safeway's CEO (the same 
Magowan who recently led the purchase 
of the SF Giants and signed outfielder 
Barry Bonds to a $43 million contract) . 
Dozens of small businesses go under 
every week, and many self-employed are 
also choking on recessionary dust 

Years after the advent of the Rust 
Bowl and the gradual deindustrializa- 
tion of the United States, the purge of 
workers and rationalization of labor 

processes have finally begun to hit white 
collar workers as hard as blue collar 
workers were hit in the 1970s and '80s. 
And not surprisingly, it's being done 
using the same methods: BofA insiders 
reported that the cutbacks were the re- 
sult of Taylorist time-and-motion stud- 
ies conducted last year on branch 
operations. After analyzing how long it 
took to do typical operations such as 
cashing checks, opening accounts and 
selling traveler's checks, management 
came to the obvious conclusion (obvi- 
ous to anyone who has ever worked in a 
bank) that a lot of the work time they 
were buying from workers wzisn't being 
used to carry on bank activities and 
increase bank profits. Hence the dra- 
matic cuts and speedup for those who 
hold on. 

Daily reports of economic recovery 
and wildly improved productivity meas- 
urements underscore the reality that 
this wave of wage-cuts, rationalization 
and layoffs is no fluke. The assault on 
living standards is precisely the mecha- 
nism by which "economic health" is re- 
stored. Historically, renewed business 

activity led to increased employment, 
but that was before the enormous wave 
of computerization and generalized 
automation of the past two decades. 
Glowing reports of improved productiv- 
ity and profits will not lead to wide- 
spread hiring. In fact, Clinton's plans to 
link health care coverage to employ- 
ment is already a major incentive for 
companies to rid themselves of as many 
employees as possible, replacing them 
where necessary with temporary work- 
ers supplied by other companies. 

Moreover, the big picture of social 
change looks like more and more people 
are being thrown down the stairs, out of 
the upper tier which offered middle class 
living standards and some sense of secu- 
rity and guaranteed material well-being, 
and into the much larger lower tier. In the 
lower tier (which in turn rests on the 
burgeoning underclass of homeless and 
permanently unemployed), people 
never quite get enough income or work, 
and find themselves jmxiously awaiting a 
call from the employment or temp 
agency, hoping for another few days, 
weeks or months of steady work, only to 
find the periods between paid work grow- 
ing longer as the paid work becomes in- 
creasingly part-time and intermittent 
Fear and desperation in turn increases 
one's willingness to endure intolerably 
dull, stupid and dangerous work. 

So how do we respond? Do we or- 
ganize ourselves to demand jobs? Do we 
insist that the government guarantee 
employment or mandate that compa- 
nies make new, larger unemployment 
payments to offset the loss of paid worL' 
Why not? 

Or do we finally begin to look be- 
yond the existing setup to demand a new 
relationship between human society, the 
work it does, and the way the products 
of human work are distributed? 

Isn't it long overdue that we ex- 
pand our social rights to include our 

Isn't it long overdue that we guaran- 
tee all members of society a decent 
standard of living, regardless of what 
contributions they actually make? After 
two centuries of automation and dra- 
matic increases in productivity, there is 
no justification for maintaining 40- 
hour work weeks, 50 weeks of work per 
year. It is time to restructure the work in 
society so no one has to spend more 
than a few hours a week at anything 
(although everyone should be free to 
spend as long as they like at activities 



they enjoy, useful or "frivolous"). It is 
time to make a permanent break be- 
tween work and income, a break that 
will be resisted to the death by the own- 
ers and managers of this society. In the 
short term, we should begin discussing 
and insisting on our right to worthwhile 
work. In the medium and longer term 
we should begin imagining how much 
better life could be without the absurd 
economic structures that promote over- 
work and conspicuous consumption at 
one end, desperate homelessness and 
crime-ridden insanity at the other, and 
precarious insecurity for all in between. 
The current assault on white collar 
workers in the Bay Area is just the latest 
installment of a long process that will 
lead to an increasingly barbaric society 
unless we forcibly resist. 

Those of you still inside have a lot 
more power than you think. You control 
valuable hardware, data, and other vul- 
nerable links in the corporate empire. 
Use your imagination, find your allies; 
they are all around you! Abandon the 
false comfort that comes from the belief 
that if you are sufficiently docile and 
obedient, the Paternal Corporation will 
take care of you. Nothing could be fur- 
ther from the truth in this dog-eat-dog 
(or is that company-eat-people?) world. 
The two-tiered society is being created 
by design, not by accident. Your place 
in it is not certain, but it is certainly not 
at the top! The longer they are allowed 
to pursue this process, the weaker we 
become. While you still have some lev- 
erage over things they care about (data 
integrity, hardware, software, attitudes, 
and so on) , take advantage! And let us 
know what's happening, and we'll try to 
get the word out. 

- Nasty Secretary Liberation Front 

Struggle Against 

How To Scam Your Way Through 
College - with Pay 

"What's wrong with education?" 
many people like to ask, as if to fix it. 
What's "wrong" is that education - 
particularly the university - is under 
attack from within by its students' re- 
fusal of work, and nothing can be done 
about it short of abolishing the schools, 
which is fine with me. Many of us want 
it all now, and this doesn't often in- 
clude work, waged or unwaged. Scam- 
ming is the way we satisfy our needs: 
cheating, using financial aid for things 

There's a place for you 

Alhe Learnin | 


Repeat After Me: 


iscover m^ 

pa St- life 

nd less 

learn the 
ABCs of 

& save — 
altruism vs^ith 
the economy 

It goo 


besides school, and graduating after 
having done litde or no work whatso- 
ever. I'm a scammer, and when I'm 
done I hope to have a Ph.D. This is a 
guide for you to get one too. 

Scamming as a Tactic. In one sense, 
universities are merely factories that ex- 
pect students to do the unwaged work of 
teaching ourselves to work endlessly, 
without direct supervision, but with 
periodic productivity checks (tests, 
grades, GPAs). The crisis in higher 
education suggests that we have been 
relatively successful at both refusing 
and transcending this process: There 
has been some transformation of the 
university into spaces that serve our 
desires to learn about ourselves and 
our histories. 

Refusal, however, is not limited to 
"multiculturalism" or "student activism," 

but includes scamming and refusing all 
school/work no matter what its con- 
tent. And it occurs on such a wide- 
spread level that it already has networks 
that circulate tests, notes, papers, and 
other information and techniques. 
Scamming's significant advantage over 
traditional student movements that 
make demands through protesting is 
that it focuses on undermining the logic 
of the system, and the processes within 
which we are forced to operate; merely 
protesting for changes in the system 
does not The best part of it is that this 
can go undetected indefinitely, while 
protesters can be easily identified and 
cut oflF. 

Scamming can combine using "alter- 
native" courses whose content is generally 
antagonistic to the purposes of the univer- 
sity - although many times they merely 



reproduce the university system 
through grades, homework, teacher- 
student hierarchy, etc. - with using the 
system against itself. This can be done 
individually, or in groups (fiats and so- 
rorities are very good at this) that have 
circulated informadon among them- 
selves over time. There may not be an 
ultimate end - other than just hanging 
out and enjoying life - but a long-term 
payofiF like a diploma indicates nothing 
about how much one worked to get it 
Some scamming students may even end 
up with a high standard of living, unre- 
lated to the amount they worked in 

No Work...Of the 121 hours I com- 
pleted 11 were knocked off before I 
started, by taking placement tests. Since I 
receive financial aid, I got to take the tests 
for fi-ee. As a result I skipped my first 
fi"ench semester and the intro classes in 
my major and english. This worked out 
well since my first fi-ench and english 
profe told me to my face that I should not 
have skipped the intro courses. 

Self-designed courses also work well, 
if you pick the right people. Just find 
professors who are willing to let you 
design and pace your own course of 
study. One possibility is to find one who 
needs a little assistance on his or her 
own project. Organize it so you can get 
away with doing very litde. I did. 

Internships - working for a busi- 
ness for the piece wages of grades- are 
possibly the most exploitative offshoot 
of school, if you don't use them with 
some imagination. In the late 1980s, I 
found myself working as a legislative 
aid. I decided that I might as well use it 
to get some grades. I signed up for an 
internship credit and got six hours of 
A's for a job I was getting paid to do. 
The two papers I had to write were done 
mosdy at work, on the state's computer. 

Use pass/fail options: Majors in my 
department can take six hours of classes 
this way, and I used them all. This means 
you can take a class and do very litde work, 
since even the slightest effort usually re- 
sults in at least a passing grade of D. 

For those remaining classes you 
have to take, there is litde need to actu- 
ally go. I learned too late that if you 
borrow at least two people's notes (so 
you can compare) for the classes you 
missed, it's as good as being there. Most 
intro courses have notes available for 
purchase from local note-taking busi- 
nesses. But don't give them your money 
unless you have to. Just trade notes with 


people in class. It already happens all 
the time. 

If you don't do as well as you like, go 
talk to the TA. They will frequenUy tack 
on a few points just to get you to leave 
them alone. 

...and Pay. The key to scamming is 
getting paid while you do it. Although 
financial aid means some work (and 
increasingly so to discourage us from 
it), it's been my subsistence and has 
paid for traveling - for fun and stu- 
dent conferences - and has bought 
everything I own. Since you only need 
to take 12 credit hours to get full aid, 
the above scams can help you get 
through in four years and a summer if 
you want - and I stupidly did before 
waking up to the possibilities. 

This university gives you three 
"strikes" for violating aid rules. You get 

a strike for falling below 12 hours or the 
minimum GPA, or dropping out. (I was 
able to avoid a strike when I dropped to 
nine hours by explaining how a fascist 
professor threatened to fail me if I 
didn't drop the course. A true story, but 
it doesn't have to be.) You can drop 
your courses by a specified date and get 
back your full tuition and fees, plus 
keep the aid money. For the next semes- 
ter all you need to do is apply for a 
Student Loan Supplement (an "SLS") 
to cover the amount they'll subtract 
from the aid money you were supposed 
to return. Check into how they do it at 
your school. I've made up for the re- 
duced aid by taking out an SLS. 

To use an SLS you have to be an 
independent. I had to have my parents 
sign a paper stating that they would not 
deduct me from their next return. As an 


independent, you get nearly full Pell 
Grants (likely to increase dramatically 
according to a recent congressional 
proposal) and you can use SLSs (which, 
unlike Stafford loans, begin to accrue 
interest immediately - for those who 
for some reason intend to repay their 
loans) . Another good use for SLSs is to 
borrow the amount calculated as the 
"student contribution" (i.e. a second 
job), something financial aid doesn't 
tell you outright. 

In all, I scammed on 35 of the re- 
quired undergraduate 120 hours. And 
this has all become easier in grad 
school, since I had only four required 
classes and have to take only nine thesis 
hours to have a "full load." 

Aid for grad students is superb. You 
can borrow up to $50,000 for a master's, 
and $105,000 total in Stafford loans and 
SLSs to complete a Ph.D. At about 
$9,000/year (including the summer) I 
can work on my master's for five years. 
Employed grad students can get full aid 
on top of their salary. That means work- 
ing, but having more money to fund 
traveling when you're supposed to be 
working on your thesis or dissertation. 
In fact, if you invest the extra money you 
can make a few thousand extra off the 
backs of other workers by the time you 
decide whether to repay the loans. 

It has certainly been easy for me to 
spend three-and-a-half years working 
on my piddling MA in Fine Arts. Al- 
though financial aid only allows you to 
take 30 hours of course work, I can 
graduate with incompletes if they are 
not in my department. I could theoreti- 
cally keep taking classes outside of my 
department until my aid runs out and 
still graduate! I might as well soak up all 
the $50,000 (or more if congress in- 
creases the ceiling) since I don't plan to 
pay it back. 

After two more semesters I'll begin 
on my dissertation, which could still last 
for a while, since I haven't borrowed 
even half the $105,000 I can borrow 
through Stafford and SLSs. Since I 
wrote enough for a dissertation while 
writing my thesis I'll have littie work to 
do. I figure I can go for another four 
years "working" on my dissertation: 
Traveling around every semester, com- 
ing back to get my aid, and making 
some gratuitous visits to my committee. 
I hope by that time the loan cap will be 
hiked agziin. 

Eating the Insides Out Fmancial aid 
has been a mzyor source of the crisis of 
the universities both in the US and inter- 

nationally. In the US, a growing number 
of students are refijsing - because they 
don't want to reduce their standard of 
living, or they don't care - or are un- 
able to repay their loans. Total defaults 
have doubled since the mid-' 80s. In the 
meanwhile, guarantors have gone 
bankrupt, banks refuse to loan students 
money or delay processing applica- 
tions, the government and universities 
are divesting from aid programs, trade 
schools are being banned ft-om the pro- 
gram, and banks are going under. 

Student debt default is considered 
one of the top reasons for the collapse of 
banking (along with "Third World" debt, 
farming loan defaults, etc., thus indicat- 
ing a link between student, third-world, 
and farmers' struggles). Like the shift 
firom grants to loans in the US, using 
loans to replace fi-ee schooling in the UK 
and Australia can be seen as a response 
to students' taking and using the money 
without doing much work. 

Scamming makes it damn near im- 
possible for the folks who worry end- 
lessly about what's fucking up their 
factories to realize what's really going 
on. While Business Week and the rest 
cry about the universities churning 
out "lemons" who don't want to work 
(they say we "don't know how" or are 
"unprepared"), we should be looking 
at ways to circulate tactics for continu- 
ing the quiet insurgency. Much of the 
right-wing attack on so-called "PC" is 
predicated on reimposing discipline 
in the universities on students who 
don't so much read Marx instead of 
Plato, but don't do anything the univer- 
sity plans for us to do- that is, endless 
hours reading, writing, studying, going 
to class, etc. Instead, we're busy doing 
what we want in our own way while using 
their money, and learning a hell of a lot 
more as a result. It's no coincidence 
that right-wing organizations such as 
Madison Center and the National Asso- 
ciation of Scholars are funded by huge 
corporations like Coors, Mobil, 
Bechtel, KMart, and Olin. By learning 
how not to work we are threatening not 
only the universities, but capital's con- 
trol over us through work itself. 

The beauty of scamming through 
school is getting paid to have fun. And 
because it's not a concerted, organized, 
explicit movement, it is beyond the 
grasp of both the university planners 
and the left. While the Progressive Stu- 
dent Network suggests we "study and 
struggle," I say "struggle against study" I 
- Sal Acker 


January 13, 1993 


Due to the current U.S. military action in the Mid- 
dle East and the resulting potential for domestic 
terrorist attacks, BART has reluctantly been forced 
to undertake certain enhanced security measures 
for the protection of our patrons and staff. 
Special undercover BART Police units have been 
established to determine and intercept any poten- 
tial threat to BART security. To facilitate their op- 
erations, the following Security Directives are now 
in effect: 

1) All persons and packages within the paid areas 
of BART or any location within 1/2 miles of BART 
property are subject to inspection, search, and/or 
seizure at the discretion of BART security person- 

2) Detention of suspicious persons for the pur- 
poses of identification, outstanding warrant checks 
and personal searches may be initiated by BART 
security personnel for a period of no more than 72 

3) Persons subjected to such detention and/or 
search and seizure of property shall have no legal 
recourse against BART or its employees. 

We apologize for any inconvenience these meas- 
ures may create, and appreciate your cooperation 
during this difficult period. Thank you for taking 
Frank J. Wilson, General Manager 



A bogus "Dear Rider" letter using tfte BART logo 
afKl car and allegedly "signed" by 8ART General 
Manager Frank J. Wilson is being circulated along 
the BART system and in office buildings in the Bay 

The tetter says that because of the situation in 
the MiddSe East, BART j-as established "special m- 
dercover" pdice units and that people could be de- 
tained for 72 hours. 


Anyone who is approached by someone claiming 
to be a BART police officer, employee or official of 
BART should ask to see identification. AJi BART 
employees carry employee identificatiofi cards 
with the employee's picture, ft there is any doubt, 
the person should contact the nearest BART Sta- 
tion Agent, Train Operator or any uniformed pcriice 

BART police regularly patrol ail stations, trains 
arxj parking facilities during BART operating hours. 
Most are uniformed and some are in street 
clothes. But ail BART police carry identification. 

When the peopte behind the forged letter" are 
ictentifled, they wilt be prosecuted to fte fullest ex- 
tent of the law, 




f ■^'^*^^**^^^!X^^^^>^i^Si^x^!^^^^>^^^'^ - '^^"""fmmfm^f^- 


I'm sorry, but I just can't 
do it. Insurance regula- 
tions, I'm sure you under- 
stand." She closed the window 
abruptly and cUcked the lock. 

I turned back to the lobby, try- 
ing not to notice the stares di- 
rected at me, the failed 
supplicant. I stepped into the 
smoggy haze, ignoring the 3D 
holographic advertisement urg- 
ing me to "Vote Yes on the Manda- 
tory Safe Pedestrian Act." It 
seemed to follow me for a few feet, 
admonishing me that "We would 
all be better off if pedestrians 
were required to wear safety gear 
such as pads and helmets, and if 
people such as yourself were re- 
quired to take a simple written 
and walking test to obtain a li- 
cense, don't you agree?" I walked 
out of range before it could offer 
me a chance to sign its petition. 

I waited at the next intersec- 
tion until the guard rails at the 
crosswalk were lowered, carefully 
looked in each direction and 
joined the crowd hurrying across 
the street. A couple of White Mus- 
lims tried to sell me a copy of their 
paper, but I declined with a curt 
"Can't. Insurance regulations..." 
I turned into the familiar faux 
crash-barrier facade of the law 
firm I worked for. 

After showing my badges and 
signing the standard disclaimers, 
I deposited my money in the ele- 
vator call box and waited. Some- 
body next to me was explaining 
how her client, a giant in the reas- 
surance industry, had been able to 
prevent the construction of a new 
hospital, thereby foreclosing on 
the possibility of malpractice suits 
and medical claims. I was soon in 
my own cubicle working through 
a pile of claims and legal forms. 
The afternoon passed quickly. I 
thought about getting a cup of 
Cofifie , but the idea of enduring 
the lengthy line of applicants sign- 
ing releases and submitting bio 
scans was more than I could en- 

Shortiy before dusk and man- 
datory curfew I left work, signed 
out, and returned my short-term 
medical-coverage bracelet. I 
walked the 13 blocks to my Kondo 
rather than go through the re- 
leases, searches and abuses of the 
crowded transit system. Two 
stores refused to sell me food on 
my way home ("Insurance regula- 
tions - after all, we hardly know 
you!"). My lucky third was willing 
though; a quick transaction in 
black market money (after all, 
credit chips, although universal 
and mandatory, left records and if 
my medical company discovered I 
was buying corned beef hash and 
eggs, Well! I don't have to tell you 
what that would lead to!). 

I made it homejust before the 
grates came down, feeling all nice 
and snug in my little fortress. 
There had been cases in which 
one of the tenants went berserk 
and slaughtered the whole build- 
ing, the barriers keeping every- 
one in and the police companies 
out. Of course, the SecCams re- 
corded it all, so the lawsuits went 
smoothly enough afterward, but 
still ... 

I shared my illicit dinner with 
my cat, had an even more illicit 
glass of wane, and soon dozed off 
to the faint sounds of the sublimi- 
nal advisor: "Do what you're told 
to do." 

"Look both ways at the cross- 

"Never take chances." 

I woke to the sound of the 
grates sliding up and the cleanup 
crews hitting the corridors. I 
showered, paying out almost 3 
dollars in overtime charges, and 
ran the morning MedComp scan 
for the block health authorities. 
Apparentiy I was still healthy, be- 
cause the door from the bath- 
room slid open and I was allowed 
to leave. I put on my best suit and 
a small insurance premium was 
charged to my account for the 
extra risk to my personal property. 

It was a beautiful morning. 
The simulated birdcalls echoed 



through the holographic 
branches over the crowded 
streets. I checked my schedule, 
and having the time and not hav- 
ing exceeded my sunlight quota 
for the month, I walked to work. 
I got there earlier than usual, so I 
was able to beat the crowds 
through the checkpoints and was 
hard at work by the time most of 
my coworkers came in. 

I was so immersed in the saga 
of the pitiful insurer and the 
wicked old widow who'd foiled 
the disease monitors that I didn't 
even notice when Rogers came 
up. He slapped down a pink war- 
rant for my interrogation ("exit 
interview and debriefing" in the 
company parlance). I turned 
pale and sweaty and leaned back. 
My desk's biomonitors started 
winking red, but the company 
had already disabled my bracelet, 
so there was no reassuring flood 
of hormones. The two police be- 
ings (PBs) helped me to my feet 
with a firm yank, and I was on my 

Rogers stripped me of my 
badges and personal effects be- 
fore we go to the elevators. One 
of the policebeings obligingly 
pressed my thumb on the com- 
pany's release form. The elevator 
arrived, the PB on my left slid a 
credit chip into the machine's call 
box, and we entered. The eleva- 
tor shot down, far deeper than the 
deepest subbasement. When the 
doors opened, I was dragged to a 
small cubicle and locked in. 

Many hours later I was booked 
on a preliminary charge of "Illicit 
Animal Intoxication" in the first 
degree. There w^as no bail. I had 
been caught in a routine cat drug 
test. After finger, palm, foot, 
voice and retinal prints I was is- 
sued a baggy jumpsuit and al- 
lowed to sign a form debiting my 
account for the cost of my food, 
lodging, guards, etc. 

As it turns out, I was actually 
acquitted of the charge (my 
spouse's young nephew had 
brought the catnip and I hadn't 

known about it, as a lengthy inter- 
rogation ascertained). Unfortu- 
nately I had been fined for 
missing work without authoriza- 
tion, and then fired for it, and then 
fined automatically for not having 
ajob; all that plus the hundreds of 
dollars a day for my prison lodg- 
ing had been allowed by my bank, 
which left me deeply in debt to the 
bank. I was beginning to feel 
hopeless when it occurred to me 
that if I cashed in my insurance 
policy it might just cover my debt. 
I'd be an uninsured pauper and 
subject to arrest at any time, but at 
least not actually in jail. I bribed 
a guard with my infinite (ly nega- 
tive) bank account and was al- 
lowed to send a brief message. 

After a couple hours of solitary 
the doors to my holding cell 
opened. My spouse walked in, 
flanked by the largest PB I'd ever 
seen. Without preliminaries I was 
offered a release form to sign. 
"It's important ... please sign it 
without making a fuss. It's for the 

"Oh, thank god you're here! I 
was hoping you'd come quickly." 

Looking embarrassed - I as- 
sumed at my eagerness - I was 
urged to sign a second form. I did 
so without even looking at it, my 
eyes fixed on my angel's face. 

As my spouse turned to leave I 
was grabbed from behind by the 
PB, who began dragging me away. 
He slapped a red "DONOR - 
ALL ORGANS" card on my chest 
and began dragging me back to 
the processing shops on that floor 
of the prison. I fought and yelled: 
"Darling, can't ... can't you help 
me? ... Get me out ..." 

Pat turned, smiled a sunny re- ij 
ceptionist smile and said "We get 
more money for your organs sepa- 
rately than we do for them to- 
gether. I'm sorry, but I just can't 
do it. Insurance regulations, I'm 
sure you understand." 

by Primitivo Morales 

Graphic: JRS 



PLUG IN...TURN ON... JACK OFF... a. u,. 

of Silicon 

San Francisco, Summer 1393 

Why Burn Out When 
You Zan BURN IN? 

FOR $30! 


(for 4 issues over two years) 

0$ 15 Regular 

0$ 10 Low Income 

O $ 1 8 Libraries 

O $ 25 Out of US surface 

O $ 35 Out of US air/libraries 

0$ 150 Lifetime sub. 

O $250 Corps. & Gov't Ager^cies 

O $ 5 BACK ISSUES (each) 

O $150 Full set (PW 1-31) 

O $ 2 Index to issues 1-25 

O $ 20 Bad Attitude (best of pw 1-20, 286 pp.) 

PW Distributors: Last Gasp (S.F.) Armadillo (L.A.), Desert Moon (Santa 
Fe), Inland Book Co. (CT), Ubiquity (NY), Daybreak (Boston), Don Olson 
(MN), Small Changes (Seattle), Hne Print (Austin, TX), Ingram (Knoxvllle 
TN), Marginal (Toronto), AK Distribution (UK), Jura Books (Australia) 



Processed Wo^ld, 41 Sutter 2t. #t?Z9, San Francisco, CA 94-104 


(DUi ve 




111(0) uigJIi 









After a hard day 
slaving for The Man- 
or knocking on opportunity's door- 
people like you are entitled to a good night. 

Go gentle. Disintegrate. 

Ine Alliimiialive JReacli 

lie xvjLa.n g 


Unjustly GnricKeJ 

Mervii i